Copyright© 2006, IRANIAN JOURNAL OF ALLERGY, ASTHMA AND IMMUNOLOGY. All rights reserved. 33
Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol
March 2007; 6(1): 33-36
The Prevalence of Exercise-Induced Bronchospasm
in Soccer Player Children, Ages 7 to 16 Years
Vahid Ziaee1,2, Azizollah Yousefi2, Massoud Movahedi2, Farhad Mehrkhani1, and Rohollah Noorian1
1 Sports Medicine Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Pediatrics, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
Received: 14 October 2006; Received in revised form: 18 November 2006; Accepted: 18 December 2006
This study represents an attempt to determine the prevalence of exercise-induced
bronchospasm among soccer player children. A total of 234 soccer player boys of all soccer
schools from Shahr-Rey enrolled in this study. They did not have any history of a recent or
chronic respiratory tract disease, a history of allergic diseases, and history of bronchodilator
drugs consumption during the 24 hours prior to the study.
Pulmonary function test (PFT) was performed for each participant before exercise and 6
and 15 minutes after playing soccer. The diagnosis of EIB was by a decrease in forced
expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) by at least 10% and in peak expiratory flow rate
(PEFR) by at least 15% with exercise challenge. If there was reduction in one parameter
alone, the participants were considered as prone to EIB.
Considering both FEV1 and PEFR the prevalence of EIB was 2.1% and 18.4% were
prone to EIB. If FEV1 or PEFR tests were used as criteria for diagnosis of airway
obstruction, the prevalence of EIB would be 6% and 15.8%, respectively. There was no
significant difference between the post of players, family history of allergic disease and EIB
in soccer players.
This study suggests that at least 2.1% of soccer players will develop bronchospasm even
if they do not have any history of asthma and allergy.
Key words: Asthma; Exercise; Exercise induced bronchospasm; Soccer
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the
lung airways resulting in episodic airflow obstruction.1
One manifestation of this condition can be its increase
rate during exercise. Exercise-induced bronchospasm
Corresponding Author: Vahid Ziaee, MD;
Sports Medicine Research Center, Al-e-Ahmad Freeway, P.O Box:
14395-578, Tehran, Iran. Tel: (+9821) 8863 0227-8, Fax: (+9821)
8800 3539, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(EIB) is a clinical syndrome characterized by a
transient reversible airflow obstruction that usually
follows a short vigorous physical activity.1-3. EIB may
be the only clinical manifestation of asthma although in
some cases it is associated with persistent asthma or
asthma that is triggered by exercise.
The prevalence of EIB, as an isolated manifestation
of asthma, is reported to be present in 6% up to 19% of
the population.1,4 Unfortunately,
undiagnosed because symptoms usually appear after
exercise and except for moderate to severe asthma, the
V. Ziaee, et al.
34/ IRANIAN JOURNAL OF ALLERGY, ASTHMA AND IMMUNOLOGY Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2007
individual's performance is not limited. These
conditions are important to recognize in children who
exercise, as asthma may limit physical activity
secondary to a decrease in pulmonary function.
The prevalence of EIB may be variable according to
the type, duration or
environmental factors, and diagnostic criteria.5, 7 There
are different opinions on diagnostic criteria based on
spirometry results. The criteria varies from 10 to 20%
reduction in FEV1 or 15 to 25% reduction in PEF or
FEF25-75.1, 3, 4
The highest reported prevalence of asthma is among
elite cross-country skiers,8 however the prevalence of
EIB is not recognized in some sports. In the Summer
Olympic Games of 1996, 50% of cyclists, 30% of
swimmers, 25% of rowers, and 18% of track and field
athletes reported that they had asthma.9
A few researchers compared the prevalence of
asthma in athletes who participated in different
sports.9,10 Only, one study has shown the prevalence of
exercise-induced bronchospasm among professional
football players,11 and there was a study indicating
prevalence of exercise-induced bronchospasm among
soccer player children.12 In this study we attempted to
determine the prevalence of reversible airway
obstruction among soccer player children.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
During the summer of 2005 a total of 234 soccer
player boys of all schools of Shahr Rey a town in the
south of city of Tehran enrolled in this cross-sectional
study. Exclusion criteria were: recent upper respiratory
Table 1. Mean value of PFT before and after exercise in soccer players
Step of PFT
intensity of exercise,
tract infection, a history of chronic lower respiratory
disease, a history of allergic disease, and history of
bronchodilator drugs consumption during the 24 hours
prior to the study.
For every participant, pulmonary function tests
(PFT) was performed before the game, as well as after
6 and 15 minutes after soccer playing. All subjects had
a uniform exercise protocol including 5 min warm up
and 15 min soccer playing.
PFT was assessed by a Spiro lab II spirometer
calibrated daily with a 3 liter calibration Syringe and
automatically by itself. All participants were trained for
performing spirometry. From this procedure, FVC,
FEV1, FEV1% and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR)
were determined based on the best of the three efforts.
The diagnosis of EIB was based by a decrease in
FEV1 by at least 10% and in PEFR by at least 15%
after exercise challenge. If there were reduction in one
parameter alone, the participant was considered as
prone to EIB. T-test and chi-square were used for
comparing variables. Statistical analysis computations
were performed by SPSS 11.5. P Value of <0.05 was
The mean age, weight and BMI of the participants
were 11.7±1.6 year, 41.1±10.2 kg and 17.8±2.6 kg/m2,
respectively. Table 1 shows the mean value of PFT
before and after exercise in our subjects. PEFR was
decreased significantly in the second step when it was
compared to the first step.
First step Second step Third step P. value
* between the first step and the second step (paired t-test)
Table 2. Frequency of PFT parameters decrement: Comparison between different steps
Decrement & statistics
parameters and Steps
11-15% More than 15%
Frequency CI CI
First compared to second step
First compared to third step
First compared to second step
First compared to third step
Exercise-Induced Bronchospasm in Children Soccer Players
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Table 2 presents the frequency of PFT parameters
decrement in our subjects. The prevalence of EIB was
2.1% (5 boys) and 43/234 boys (18.4%) were prone to
EIB. If FEV1 or PEFR tests were used as criteria for
diagnosis of airway obstruction, the prevalence of EIB
would be 6% (14/234) and 15.8% (37/234),
There was no significant difference between the
post of the players, family history of allergic disease
and EIB in the soccer players (P>0.05). Moreover there
was no significant difference between history of
smoking in parents and EIB (P>0.05).
The strongest factor of this study was the large
sample size and investigation of soccer players.
In many studies the diagnosis of EIB was confirmed
by a significant fall in the FEV1 or PEFR after a
hyperventilation). These criterion are logical in
symptomatic patients, but in normal population and in
the absence of clinical symptoms, we need stronger
criteria. Our study showed EIB in 6 to 15.8 percent of
children soccer players. This dissociation is due to cut
off point of diagnostic of EIB. The combination of
these two tests will lead to a prevalence of EIB of
2.1%. Considering FEV1 alone as a diagnostic
criterion, this rate is less than the rates reported in other
studies,4,13 but based on PEFR 15.8% of subjects
showed EIB. This rate (15.8%) is higher than or equal
rates to reported by other studies performed on
children.5,14 However, there are researchers who found
high prevalence of EIB, about 30% and higher, in
Although there is no universally accepted post-
exercise lower limit of pulmonary function between
EIB positive and normal individuals, many researchers
used the criteria of 10-20% reduction in FEV1 or 15-
25% reduction in PEFR or FEF25-75 to diagnose EIB.3
We selected non asthmatic and non allergic children
in our study. Similar studies, have reported higher
prevalence in asthmatic and allergic patients versus
normal population.5,12 If a similar study was performed
in non selected children, the prevalence of EIB would
have been higher than the present study. Although,
American football players have a very high incidence
of bronchial hyperreactivity compared to volleyball
test (exercise or
players,16 however soccer players do not seem to have a
high prevalence of bronchial obstruction compared to
other medium intensity players such as volleyball or
handball players. Bisschop et al showed that warm up
reduced the decrease in peak flow in most of the
children during exercise, thus reducing subsequent
post-exercise deep bronchoconstriction.17 In this study,
players had 5 min warm up before exercise. This factor
and the fact that non-allergic patients were selected
may have been the cause of the low prevalence of EIB
in this study. Sidiropoulou et al performed a study on
EIB in children soccer players aged 8 to 13 years. They
showed a decline in FEV1>15% in 40% of soccer
players aged 8 to 13 years.12 This prevalence was 11%
in children with free personal medical history, 25%
with allergies, and 89% in children with asthma.12 Our
study was performed in actual field after 5 min warm
up, but Sidiropoulou's investigation was performed
after 6 min free running exercise.12 One study
considered that free running is more asthmogenic than
cycling, swimming, or the treadmill.18,19 Whereas
Rubia et al.20 showed that if we control the
environmental conditions and exercise intensity, there
would be no difference in asthmagenecity between
treadmill and free running. However, soccer is an
outdoor sport and control of environmental factors in
soccer is very difficult. Warm and low humid weather,
grass pollen and air pollution are trigger factors for
EIB. In study location, there was much air pollution
due to petroleum and other manufactures, and our
subjects played on grass ground, which is important in
triggering EIB. According to our criteria, 18.4% of our
subjects were prone to EIB. Although a decrease in
FEV1 or PEFR is considered EIB in some studies, we
defined these criteria as prone to EIB and this method
increases the liability of our study. We suggest these
group subjects should be considered EIB, if they
showed clinical manifestations.
EIB among soccer players with non asthmatic and
allergic history is at least 2.1%. This value suggests
that a significant percentage of soccer players will
develop bronchospasm even if they do not have any
history of asthma and allergy. For more accuracy, we
suggest FEV1 and PEFR, as diagnostic criteria for EIB
in asymptomatic individuals.
V. Ziaee, et al.
36/ IRANIAN JOURNAL OF ALLERGY, ASTHMA AND IMMUNOLOGY Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2007
This study was funded by Sports Medicine
Research Centre and Vice-Chancellor for Research of
Tehran University of Medical Sciences.
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