New research from the University of Kent finds that 3 out of 10 elite footballers may have undetected lung and airway problems, such as EIA (exercise-induced asthma).
Lung health in footballers
Lead researcher, Ana Jackson, is suggesting that a programme for lung health screening needs implementing. She came to this conclusion after assessing the airway health in elite footballers from top clubs in England. While undergoing pre-season fitness and medical screening a high-rate of players were found to have previously undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
EIA in footballers
The players identified as having EIA were experiencing breathing problems. This is because EIA is a narrowing of the airways in the lungs. And it is strenuous exercise that triggers it. Those players experiencing EIA will complain of shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing. And these symptoms can come on both during, and after exercise.
The players experiencing EIA found that their symptoms reduced after being treated with appropriate medication. And, over time, their lung function was found to improve too. Not only that, but their aerobic fitness and performance also improved.
Health screening at clubs
Football clubs will screen for heart problems, and this research now calls for lung health screening too. This will help detect and identify any respiratory problems players may be experiencing. Players may not realise that coughing or wheezing are symptoms of deeper breathing problems. As a result, players are being wrongly dismissed as being too unfit to play. In fact, they may actually be suffering from EIA.
Tailoring treatment to those affected
Assessing a footballers’ breathing and lung function is paramount. Not only will it help to detect a breathing problem, but it will help tailor treatment. And treatment for improving players' breathing strength and stamina will also improve their performance. So breathing training will, in fact, be beneficial for all players as part of their training regimen.
EIA in other sports
Exercise-induced asthma is also experienced by elite athletes in other sports. And it is as a result of the high intensity at which they exercise, and the long duration of high-intensity exercise. This type of endurance exercise pushes their breathing rates to their highest limit.
Endurance sports, such as long-distance running, cross-country skiing and cycling are the most likely activities to cause problems for people with exercise-induced asthma. And now football will too.
Breathing muscle training improves performance
Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a strength training protocol for the breathing muscles. It is scientifically proven to improve breathing muscle strength and stamina and reduce breathing fatigue. And because it is drug-free, it has no drug interactions or side-effects. It is also easy-to-use and time efficient. In fact, players need only perform 30 breaths twice a day to feel the benefits after just 4-weeks.
Benefits to players of IMT
IMT is an intervention in numerous scientific research and clinical trials. This is because strengthening the breathing muscles can benefit everyone.
In scientific tests and studies IMT:
- Improved inspiratory muscle strength by 31.2%
- Improved inspiratory muscle endurance by 27.8%
- Accelerated recovery during repeated sprints by up to 7%
- Reduced whole body effort during exercise
- Warmed-up the breathing muscles which normal warm-up routines fail to do
- Speeded-up lactate clearance more effectively than traditional active recovery strategies