Research leads to call for lung health screening at top football clubs

December 08, 2017

New research from the University of Kent has discovered that nearly three in 10 elite footballers at top clubs in England have undetected lung and airway problems that could impair their on-field performance.

The findings of this study will be presented at a British Thoracic Society meeting on 8 December (details in Notes to Editors) by lead researcher Anna Jackson, who will also call for all top football clubs to implement a lung health screening programme to help identify those with airway problems and treat them appropriately.

The research, which was conducted with colleagues at London's Royal Brompton Hospital, assessed the airway health and impact of treatment in 97 elite male footballers undergoing pre-season fitness and medical screening. It discovered that high rates of previously undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma (EIA) existed among those tested.

Footballers are traditionally screened for potential heart problems using rigorous medical tests but Ms Jackson and colleagues recommend that this should also be the case for lung and breathing issues. Not only would it improve the lung health of players, it also has the potential to increase the players' performance.

They also suggest that clubs need to implement a more rigorous lung health screening programme pre-season using core medical tests and to move beyond looking ad-hoc at possible symptoms, as sometimes these may not always be obvious - or even 'written off' as poor fitness or short term 'coughs and colds'.

It is often the case that in some clubs footballers who are very short of breath or who cough a lot after training may be deemed as not being 'fit enough', when in fact they may have problems with their airways that need to be treated.

Anna Jackson is a sports scientist and currently undertaking a PhD at Kent's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.
For further information or interview requests with the University of Kent research team contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
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For more information during the British Thoracic Society meeting (from Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th December 2018): Please contact the BTS news media office on t: 020 7798 4801 / 020 7798 4541 or the mobile numbers below.

Rosie Strachan: t: 020 7831 8778 or 07566 223644

Charlotte Sutton: t: 07958 279240

Ed Gyde t: 020 7831 8778 or 0780 9574801

Note to Editors:

Twenty-seven players (28% of the sample) demonstrated airway problems by giving a positive result in a breathing challenge called EVH (eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea) which tested for exercise induced asthma. Of these, 10 (37%) reported no previous history of asthma or airway problems. The 'challenge test' involves players breathing and exhaling dry air as hard and as fast as possible for 6 minutes to try to achieve a target of exhaled air from the lungs.

These players were then treated with standard asthma medication to help reduce any inflammation and narrowing of the airways to increase airflow through the lungs and a follow-up assessment demonstrated reduced airway inflammation and improved lung function on testing.

7 of these players then attended further medical screening - and exhibited reduced airway inflammation and improved lung function.

The players who were treated showed a greater increase in their maximum aerobic capacity than the rest of the sample.

The British Thoracic Society is the UK's professional body of respiratory specialists. The Society seeks to improve standards of care for people who have respiratory diseases and to support and develop those who provide that care. A registered charity, it has over 3,400 members including doctors, nurses, respiratory physiotherapists, scientists and other professionals with a respiratory interest.

The British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting takes place between 6-8 December 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London.

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

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