Valikko Sulje

Poster presentation in Nordic Winter Sports Conference 2020:

Respiratory Tract Infections Hamper Training and Competing in Finnish Cross-Country Skiers

Mäki-Heikkilä Rikhard1, Karjalainen Jussi1,2, Parkkari Jari3,5,
Valtonen Maarit4, Lehtimäki Lauri1,2

1Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland; 2Allergy Centre, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland; 3Tampere Research Center of Sports Medicine, UKK Institute, Tampere, Finland; 4KIHU – Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Jyväskylä, Finland, 5Tampere University Hospital, Tampere

Purpose. Respiratory tract infections (RTI) are one of the main causes preventing athletes from training and competing and increase risk for major complications and longer breaks from training. The aim of this study was to investigate the burden of illnesses during one season in cross-country skiers.

Methods. In spring 2019, we invited via the Finnish Ski Association by mail all athletes (n = 1282) that had enrolled in their highest level national competition from 13 years of age to seniors.

Results. The response rate was 27% (n = 351) and 58% of the responders were women. The mean age was 18.8 (SD 6.1) years. In total, 86% of the skiers refrained from training due to RTI and 66% missed a competition due to illness at least once during the season. On average, skiers had 15.8 days absence of training due to illness. Although severe symptoms prevent skiers from competing and training, 48 % reported training and 23 % reported competing while having common cold. There were no notable differences between sexes or between juniors and seniors (cut-off age 16 years) in training or competing during RTI. Skiers with asthma refrained more from competing and had more days of illness compared to skiers without asthma (77% vs. 62%, p = 0.011, 19.0 vs. 14.7 days, p = 0.014).

Conclusions. RTIs cause a major burden on cross-country skiers often preventing training and competing, and asthma increases absence from training and competing.

Practical applications. Proper guidance for the risk of complications in athletes should be considered.

Information on our research – Respiratory health in Finnish athletes

The purpose of this research project is to investigate the prevalence of respiratory symptoms, respiratory diseases and the use of asthma and allergic medication in Finland in different sports and in general population. The sports disciplines invited to the study are cross-country skiing, swimming and figure skating. Subjects are recruited via the national sporting associations and are 13 to 35 years of age. Matched controls who do not engage in these sports will also be invited.

This research project is executed by Tampere University in collaboration with respective national sporting associations and KIHU – Research Institute for Olympic Sports. The study has been approved by the Ethical Commission of Tampere University Hospital.

The survey is set for follow-up in three and six years to monitor changes in respiratory symptoms and diseases in athletes as well as the reasons for possible retirement from sports. This is a postal survey with an option to answer online.

The data for the study has been collected between January 2019 and June 2020. The poster above is the second published data on this research project.

If you have questions on our research, please email us or contact us on Twitter.

Rikhard Mäki-Heikkilä
researcher, Tampere University
@hengitys & @rikhardfi (personal account)

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