Airway dysfunction in elite swimmers: prevalence, impact and challenges

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The prevalence of airway dysfunction in elite swimmers is amongst the highest in elite athletes. The traditional view that swimmers naturally gravitate towards swimming because of pre-existing respiratory disorders has been challenged. There is now sufficient evidence that the higher prevalence of bronchial tone disorders in elite swimmers is not the result of a natural selection bias. Rather, the combined effects of repeated chlorine by-product exposure and chronic endurance training can lead to airway dysfunction and atopy. This review will detail the underpinning causes of airway dysfunction observed in elite swimmers. It will also show that airway dysfunction does not prevent success in elite level swimming. Neither does it inhibit lung growth and might be partially reversible when elite swimmers retire from competition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-63
JournalOpen Access Journal of Sports Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2016


  • exercise
  • aquatic athletes
  • bronchoconstriction


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