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.”

 

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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The Effect Of Football Shoulder Pads On Pulmonary Function

“Restriction of expansion of the lungs or chest wall impedes inflation of the lungs during inhalation. Functional changes occurring during such restriction include reduced pulmonary and/or chest wall compliance, decreases in pulmonary function, and ultimately a decrease in exercise performance. Such restriction can be seen in several pathologic conditions such as scoliosis or obesity, as well as occupational situations such as the wearing of bullet-proof vests. This study investigated the hypothesis that tightened football shoulder pads produce decrements in pulmonary function similar to those shown in previous studies involving other external chest-wall restricting devices.”

Conclusion:

“Results are consistent with a restrictive condition and support our hypothesis that tightened shoulder pads reduce pulmonary function. Further studies remain to be performed to determine whether these changes lead to decreased exercise performance and whether equipment modifications can be made to limit alterations in pulmonary function without decreasing the protective value of the pads.”

Therefore it appears that protective equipment increases breathing effort and reduces operational performance. POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training reverses these impairments.

Read The Effect Of Football Shoulder Pads On Pulmonary Function >

IMT Improves Exercise Tolerance in Recreational Soccer Players

“This study investigated whether the addition of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) to an existing program of preseason soccer training would augment performance indices such as exercise tolerance and sports-specific performance beyond the use of preseason training alone.”

Conclusion:

“There may be benefit for soccer players to incorporate IMT to their pre-season training but the effect is not conclusive. It is likely that a greater pre-season training stimulus would be particularly meaningful for this population if fitness gains are a priority and evoke a stronger IMT response.”

Read Inspiratory Muscle Training Improves Exercise Tolerance in Recreational Soccer Players Without Concomitant Gain in Soccer-Specific Fitness >

The Influence Of Respiratory Muscle Training Upon Intermittent Exercise Performance

“The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of respiratory muscle training on intermittent exercise performance, respiratory muscle strength, respiratory muscle fatigue, and dyspnea in soccer athletes.”

Conclusion:

“Respiratory Muscle Training improved intermittent exercise performance in these soccer athletes. The mechanisms by which RMT improves performance warrant further study.”

Read The influence of respiratory muscle training upon intermittent exercise performance >

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.

 

Inspiratory muscle training improves exercise tolerance in recreational soccer players

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published online (for a limited time ahead of print) a study that investigated whether the addition of IMT (Inspiratory Muscle Training) to an existing programme of pre-season soccer training would augment performance indices such as exercise tolerance and sports specific performance beyond the use of pre-season training alone.

The study concluded that there may be benefit for soccer players to incorporate IMT to their pre-season training, but the effect is not conclusive.

Inspiratory muscle training improves exercise tolerance in recreational soccer players without concomitant gain in soccer specific fitness

Guy, Joshua H.; Edwards, Andrew M. PhD; Deakin, Glen B. PhD

Abstract

This study investigated whether the addition of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) to an existing programme of pre-season soccer training would augment performance indices such as exercise tolerance and sports-specific performance beyond the use of pre-season training alone.

Thirty one adult males were randomised across three groups: experimental (EXP: n=12), placebo (PLA: n=9), and control (CON: n=10). EXP and PLA completed a 6-week pre-season programme (two x weekly sessions) in addition to concurrent IMT with either a IM training load (EXP) or negligible (PLA) inspiratory resistance. CON did not use an IMT device or undertake soccer training.

All participants performed the following tests before and after the 6-week period: Standard spirometry; maximal inspiratory mouth pressure (MIP); multi stage fitness test (MSFT) and a soccer specific fitness test (SSFT).

Following 6-weeks training, EXP significantly improved: MIP (P=0.002); MSFT distance covered (P=0.02); and post SSFT blood lactate (BLa) (P=0.04). No other outcomes from the SSFT were changed. Pre to post training performance outcomes for PLA and CON were unchanged. These findings suggest the addition of IMT to pre-season soccer training improved exercise tolerance (MSFT distance covered) but had little effect on soccer specific fitness indices beyond a slightly reduced post-training SSFT BLa.

In conclusion, there may be benefit for soccer players to incorporate IMT to their pre-season training but the effect is not conclusive. It is likely that a greater pre-season training stimulus would be particularly meaningful for this population if fitness gains are a priority and also evoke a stronger IMT response.
(C) 2013 National Strength and Conditioning Association

Read more about why you should consider incorporating POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training as part of your football training, and if you’re already using POWERbreathe as part of your training, or are using it in football training drills, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read more about using POWERbreathe for endurance training on our Blog.