European athletes in asthma study at Beijing Olympics

May 6, 2008 6:50:29 PM PDT
Athletes from 10 European countries will take part in an allergy and asthma study at the Beijing Olympics.

The study announced Tuesday on World Asthma Day is likely to involve hundreds of athletes. It's sponsored by the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network, an EU-funded research network.

"The pan-European study will allow scientists to specify the prevalence of asthma, exercise induced asthma and other allergic diseases among European athletes qualified for the Beijing Olympics," the Brussels-based group said.

Participating countries are Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

British asthma expert Peter Burney said the study would look at the effects of peak exertion and the polluted atmosphere in the Chinese capital.

"What we hope to do is follow the athletes with a questionnaire ? before they go and a little bit afterward ? and ... look at the relationship between activity at the Olympics and previous health and the outcome," Burney told The Associated Press.

Asthma rates are higher among athletes than in the general population.

"If you exert yourself a lot, you're more susceptible to the environment at that time because you're breathing in a lot more air," Burney said. "It does seem to be high in athletes, particularly in distance athletes and in endurance sports.

Burney, involved in the British part of the study, said details of the methods remain to be worked out.

He said he didn't believe pollution in Beijing would cause athletes serious problems.

"I don't think that will happen. I think they'll be well looked after," he said.

The study is coordinated by professor Kai-Hakon Carlsen of the Voksentoppen Children's Asthma and Allergy Center in Oslo, Norway.