Pulmonary function and airway responsiveness in young competitive swimmers

Michela Silvestri, Emanuele Crimi, Simona Oliva, Daniela Senarega, Maria Angela Tosca, Giovanni A. Rossi, Vito Brusasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale Strong physical activities are often associated with large lung volumes and relatively reduced flow, which may represent a physiological variant but also an obstructive abnormality. Competitive swimmers have also spirometric values even larger than other athletes, although they are at increased risk for asthma or airway hyperresponsiveness. Aim We aimed to investigate whether lung volumes increase with duration of swimming training and are related to an obstructive abnormality associated with airway hyperresponsiveness and asthma-like symptoms. Methods Forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV 1), forced vital capacity (FVC), airway responsiveness, and skin prick test were measured in 34 children/adolescents (age: 7-19 yrs old) trained for competitive swimming. Their "lifetime" exposure, i.e., the hours spent in pool was very strongly correlated with their age at the time of study. The effect of swimming activity was therefore estimated from the relationships between lung function data and age. Results FVC Z-score was positively correlated with age, indicating that absolute values increased more than expected with normal growth, but FEV1/FVC was negatively correlated with age. Although the majority of subjects had allergic sensitization to aeroallergens and about one half had asthma-like symptoms and/or airway hyperresponsiveness, these conditions did not alter the relationships between lung function and age. Conclusion Intense swimming activity may cause a greater than normal lung growth, irrespective of the presence of allergic sensitization or airway hyperresponsiveness. The associated reduction of FEV1/FVC may represent a physiological variant rather than a true obstructive abnormality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-80
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • asthma
  • bronchial hyperreactivity
  • lung growth
  • spirometry
  • swimming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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