Russia World Cup team need help with breathing

Following their victory over Spain and defeat by Croatia, news is coming out that the 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup 2018 team are using ammonia to help with their breathing.

Russia World Cup 2018 team sniff ammonia

The World Cup team doctor confirms the team use ammonia to help with bloodflow and breathing. Ammonia is the predominant ingredient in smelling salts, which are available over the counter. Smelling salts only release a small amount of ammonia gas, as they are designed to arouse a person from unconsciousness. Consequently, no adverse health problems are reported.

Ammonia is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List for 2018. However, for a while now, the sport of professional boxing bans the use of smelling salts.

When you sniff smelling salts, ammonia gas releases and irritates the mucous membranes of your nose and lungs. In turn, this triggers a breathing reflex, causing the respiratory muscles to work faster. This makes the body think it’s working harder and heart rate increases. In turn, you feel you have more ‘power’. However, because of this ‘feeling’ of additional power, it’s thought that sniffing ammonia could actually have a placebo effect. The reason being, if a player feels more powerful, alert and awake after sniffing ammonia, their confidence and self-belief increases. Consequently, an improvement in performance is felt.

Improve breathing strength & stamina

Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a form of resistance training for the breathing muscles. IMT is scientifically proven to increase breathing muscle strength and stamina. Furthermore, breathing fatigue will reduce as a result. As a consequence, sports performance improves. Additionally, performing an inspiratory muscle warm-up prior to a match helps prevent breathlessness from the start. This is especially beneficial for substitutes on the bench as they wait to replace a team-mate on the pitch.

Out of breath when playing football?

It’s no surprise players feel out of breath or tire easily when playing football. They sprint, change direction and cover around 10 kilometres during the 90 minutes of play. In fact, sprinting alone will drive breathing to its highest level, inducing a feeling of extreme breathlessness. This is an issue because players must recover quickly in order to continue contributing to the game.

Metaboreflex & Performance in Elite Female Soccer

ECSS is the European College of Sport Science (ECSS). Part of its purpose is to promote junior scientists and foster state-of-the-art research. And in order to do this, ECSS have created the Young Investigators Award (YIA). This award-winning research, presented in the video, is for Metaboreflex and Performance in Elite Female Soccer: Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training.

Video presentation of ECSS YIA winning research

Metaboreflex & Performance in Elite Female Soccer

This research aims to determine the effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) on respiratory and peripheral muscles oxygenation. It examines this during a maximal exercise tolerance test and on repeated-sprint ability (RSA) performance in professional women football players.

Inspiratory Muscle Training

All participants in the study perform 6-weeks of IMT. The device they use for IMT is the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback software.

At the end of their 6 weeks’ training, all participants are reevaluated.

Research Findings

The findings show that,

“…only the IMT group present lower deoxyhaemoglobin and total haemoglobin blood concentrations on intercostal muscles concomitantly to an increased oxyhemoglobin and total haemoglobin blood concentrations on vastus lateralis muscle during time-to-exhaustion”

Research Conclusions

Results suggest the potential role of IMT to attenuate inspiratory muscles metaboreflex. Consequently, oxygen and blood supply to limb muscles during high-intensity exercise improves. Furthermore, there is also a potential impact on inspiratory muscle strength, exercise tolerance and sprints performance in professional women football players.


ECSS presents scientists with the opportunity of entering this prestigious competition for scientific excellence, every year. And it’s at the ECSS annual congress where young scientists present their scientific work, as they compete to win the YIA Award.

Following presentations, members of the ECSS Scientific Board and ECSS Scientific Committee, grant the awards. They base this decision upon an oral and mini-oral presentation for the top ten presentations respectively.

Bruno Archiza is the winner of this 2016 YIA award, and his presentation took place at the 21st annual congress of the ECSS in Vienna.

EIA in Elite Footballers

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:

Football player uses POWERbreathe IMT during recovery

German professional footballer Jan Kirchhoff, playing for Premier League team Sunderland, is back on the football pitch after his knee surgery.

Football injury and fitness

The 3 month recovery period is a time when Jan is not able to train. As a result Jan became concerned about his fitness. But by keeping his breathing strength and stamina in condition he knows that he’ll be in a better position when it comes to returning to play. So Jan took up POWERbreathe K3 Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Football player uses POWERbreathe K3

The POWERbreathe K3 IMT exercises Jan’s breathing muscles, mainly his diaphragm and intercostals. These muscles are difficult to specifically target and train. But not with POWERbreathe IMT. Jan simply breathes in through the device. The POWERbreathe K3 will automatically adapt to Jan’s training requirements. It does this by offering a tapered loading resistance to match the contraction curve of his breathing muscles throughout his entire breath. This enables him to complete a full breath and muscular contraction at an optimal resistance.

Why breathing is a challenge to football players

Football players are likely to cover about 10-12 km during the course of a match. And they’ll likely do it at an average intensity of 75-80% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max.). They’ll also cruise for 30-90 seconds and sprint for 3-5 seconds throughout the 90 minutes of the game.

Most activity during a match will be sub-maximal, but Jan’s intermittent sprints will be supra-maximal. It’s this pattern of exertion that places extreme demands upon breathing because these activities are anaerobic and generate high levels of lactic acid. Lactic acid stimulates breathing to increase as part of a compensatory strategy to overt fatigue of other muscles, such as the legs, which will inevitably impair performance. Following a sprint a footballer’s breathing is driven to its highest level, inducing extreme breathlessness. And if the player is to continue to make an active and effective contribution to the game, their breathing must recover quickly. Inspiratory muscle training with POWERbreathe is proven to help a player recover more quickly.

Why strong breathing muscles are essential to a footballer

Fatigue of the breathing muscles can affect more than running ability, such as flexing the upper body during heading. But strong breathing muscles are also essential for the twisting and flexing movements of the trunk. They also make a contribution to stabilising and turning the body during kicking.

Strengthen breathing muscles with POWERbreathe IMT

POWERbreathe IMT is scientifically proven to improve breathing strength and stamina and reduce breathing muscle fatigue. In fact in tests IMT:

  • Accelerated recovery during repeated sprints by up to 7%
  • Improved inspiratory muscle strength by 31.2%
  • Improved inspiratory muscle endurance by 27.8%
  • Reduced whole body effort during exercise

Jan’s progress (March)

We are in contact with Jan, checking up on his progress, and since writing this blog he says,

“training is going really well. Breathing and football wise.  Just had a new record in each category yesterday.  Feel like I already have some benefit during football.  Thanks for your text and help.”


Athletes Do Not Condition Inspired Air More Effectively than Non-athletes

There is a study that aims to assess athletes’ ability to warm and humidify inspired air. This study is published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It is called, Athletes do not condition inspired air more effectively than non-athletes during hyperpnea.

Endurance athletes’ inspired air

Airway disease is more prevalent in endurance athletes. This is possible because they need to adapt their breathing to cope with large volumes of inspired air. And they need to inspire large volumes of air because of the intense exercise they perform. But the environment they train in may also be relevant.

Study method

The study measures the difference between each athlete’s inhaled and exhaled air temperature. It did this during and after a Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperpnea test (EVH). This is the test that is used to diagnose exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm. It is a 6 minute test during which the athlete breathes a cold, dry gas at very high ventilation rates.

All 23 athletes in the study attend a laboratory on three occasions. Two of these occasions are for baseline measurements and information. The third is to perform a modified EVH test. This is to measure their inspired and expired air temperatures.

No evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air

The test results show no evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air. And by ‘conditioned’ air the study means the athlete’s ability to warm and humidify inspired air. If the study did find evidence, this could suggest an increased bronchial blood flow or another adaptive mechanism. Bronchial blood flow supplies nutrients and oxygen to the cells that constitute the lungs, as well as carrying waste products away from them. Therefore the absence of an adaptive mechanism could contribute to airway damage observed in endurance athletes. This may be that colder but mainly dryer air is penetrating deeper in the lung.

Strategies to reduce impact on airway injury

A pre-exercise warm-up is well known to reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchospasm and exercise-induced asthma. It is thought the reason for this is because of an increase in bronchial blood flow. A warm-up involves performing the athlete’s activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It gradually raises the body temperature. Furthermore it increases blood flow to the muscles.

An inspiratory warm-up

It is also beneficial to warm-up the breathing muscles. A scientifically proven way of doing this is with Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). POWERbreathe is an IMT device that is quick and easy to use. POWERbreathe IMT is performed as part of an athlete’s daily training. But research and trials have also shown it to be beneficial for an inspiratory warm-up. This means simply reducing the breathing load on the POWERbreathe IMT device to a lower setting. Better still the POWERbreathe K3, K4 and K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software feature an automatic warm-up mode. This automatically sets the optimal resistance for an inspiratory muscle warm-up.

Brentford and Republic of Ireland midfielder suffers EIA

POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) could help Brentford and Republic of Ireland midfielder Alan Judge who’s recently been reprimanded by the Football Association after breaching doping regulations for consuming higher levels of his asthma medication than is permitted. Judge is one of many sports people that suffer with exercise-induced asthma (EIA) and uses an inhaler. 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. A Case Report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at Inspiratory Muscle Training: a simple cost-effective treatment for inspiratory stridor, which described the support given to a British elite athlete in the build-up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Complaining of breathing symptoms during high intensity training which resulted in a reduction in performance and premature cessation of training, the athlete undertook a eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea challenge to test for her exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Following consultation with a sports physician and physiologist, the athlete was diagnosed with inspiratory stridor and an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) intervention was implemented. The IMT intervention required 30 loaded breaths twice daily using POWERbreathe five times per week for 11 weeks. The athlete reported a precipitous fall in symptoms and was able to complete high intensity training without symptoms. If you suffer from exercise induced asthma (EIA) then breathing training with POWERbreathe could help you train in a safe and productive manner and because it is drug-free won’t incur scrutiny from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

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Lack of asthma testing could risk careers of young footballers

The nature of an athlete means that they will always push their body to the limit, with breathing demand increasing as a result.

Dr Kippelen, Senior Lecturer (Exercise Physiology) of Brunel University London suggests that youth football players could be jeopardising their health and sporting potential because they aren’t getting tested for asthma early enough in their career.

Professional senior footballers and Team GB athletes are tested for asthma, so Dr Kippelen is asking why not the same for younger players.

Most activity during a football match is sub-maximal, but intermittent sprints are supra-maximal. This pattern of exertion places extreme demands upon a footballer’s breathing because these activities are anaerobic and generate high levels of lactic acid. Lactic acid stimulates breathing to increase as part of a compensatory strategy to overt fatigue of other muscles, such as the legs, which inevitably will impair performance.

POWERbreathe IMT (Inspiratory Muscle Training) would be a useful addition to youth football training as not only will it help to alleviate the demand and stress on their lungs by improving the strength and stamina of their breathing muscles, but also because it’s drug-free it can be used by people with asthma, and in studies IMT improved symptoms of asthma by up to 75% in 3 weeks.

Read article, Lack of asthma testing could risk the careers of young footballers


POWERbreathe helps Northampton Town Football Club get match-ready

Craig Smith, Head of Sports Science at Northampton Town Football Club (NTFC) invited POWERbreathe to talk about the benefits of inspiratory muscle training for his team.

Strong breathing muscles are more resistant to fatigue – something that would be hugely beneficial to footballer players who have to cope with intermittent sprinting during a match where their breathing is driven to its highest level, inducing breathlessness.

Although between these bursts of energy players will cruise, they still need to have the stamina to get them through the game, and therefore their breathing needs to recover quickly. This pattern of cruising and then sprinting places extreme demands on their breathing, as these activities are anaerobic and generate high levels of lactic acid. Lactic acid stimulates breathing to increase as part of a compensatory strategy to overt fatigue of other muscles, such as the legs, which inevitably will impair performance.

Stronger breathing muscles are also essential for twisting and flexing the trunk and make a contribution to stabilising and turning a player’s body during kicking, as well as flexing the upper body during heading, so fatigue of the breathing muscles can affect more than a player’s running ability. Inspiratory muscle training with POWERbreathe is scientifically proven to improve breathing strength and stamina.

Several of the Northampton Town Football Club’s substitute players have been using POWERbreathe on match days to warm-up their breathing muscles so that they avoid breathlessness from the start of the match. Since they’ve been using it they’ve been tested again using the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Links software to see if using POWERbreathe has helped improve their physical condition and recovery after bouts of sprinting. And as for the squad, well according to Craig, they’ve seen results!

As well as helping footballers and soccer players recover more quickly, POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training can be used as part of a pre-match and pre-substitution warm-up. By warming-up their breathing muscles before they go on the pitch, the sense of increased breathing effort and breathlessness experienced during the first few minutes of activity can be avoided.

And when POWERbreathe is used as a ‘cool-down’ it helps to speed lactate clearance more effectively than traditional active recovery strategies. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil discovered that breathing against a small inspiratory load immediately after exercise reduces lactate by 16%. Also, unlike a normal active recovery (which usually takes approximately five minutes to speed-up lactate clearance), inspiratory loading reduces lactate as soon as exercise stops. Furthermore, when using the inspiratory load, lactate concentration after just 5 minutes was equivalent to that achieved in 15 minutes during passive recovery.

Read more about why POWERbreathe should be an essential component of football training, or if you’re a football player and are already using POWERbreathe, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum, Facebook page or Twitter as we’d love to hear about how you’ve benefited from this breathing training.