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Abstract

Purpose: Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing during exercise is referred to as exercise-induced dyspnea (EID), and is a common complaint from athletes. The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence of EID among college aged athletes and to explore the medical encounters, including diagnostic testing, arising from this complaint. Method: We surveyed intercollegiate (n=122) and club sport (n=103) athletes regarding their experience with EID, including medical diagnoses, diagnostic procedures, environmental factors, and treatment effectiveness. Results: Fifty-two percent of respondents (n=112) reported episodes of EID. Intercollegiate and club sport athletes did not differ in regard to the prevalence of EID, utilization of health provider services, or diagnoses. Sixty-six percent of respondents with EID reported a physician visit secondary to EID with resulting diagnoses of asthma, EIB, allergies, stress reaction, and vocal cord dysfunction, or a combination of two or more of these conditions. Less than 30% of those diagnosed with asthma and/or EIB reported a diagnosis based on a pulmonary function test. Conclusions and Recommendations: EID is a common, yet complex, condition that appears to be as prevalent in club sports as it is in intercollegiate athletics. Asthma and exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) are the most familiar diagnoses associated with EID, though many conditions present with similar symptoms. Objective diagnostic testing was not commonly reported among college-aged athletes with asthma or EIB in this study. This finding conflicts with recent evidence-based recommendations for objective testing for athletes with EID to ensure appropriate and effective treatment plans.

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