Impact of Isolated Exercise-Induced Small Airway Dysfunction on Exercise Performance in Professional Male Cyclists.

Pigakis KM; Various centres in, Greece.;
Stavrou VT; Kontopodi AK; Pantazopoulos I; Daniil Z; Larissa, Greece.; DeparGourgoulianis K;

Sports (Basel, Switzerland) [Sports (Basel)] 2024 Apr 19; Vol. 12 (4).
Date of Electronic Publication: 2024 Apr 19.

Background: Professional cycling puts significant demands on the respiratory system. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is a common problem in professional athletes. Small airways may be affected in isolation or in combination with a reduction in forced expiratory volume at the first second (FEV 1 ). This study aimed to investigate isolated exercise-induced small airway dysfunction (SAD) in professional cyclists and assess the impact of this phenomenon on exercise capacity in this population.
Materials and Methods: This research was conducted on professional cyclists with no history of asthma or atopy. Anthropometric characteristics were recorded, the training age was determined, and spirometry and specific markers, such as fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) and immunoglobulin E (IgE), were measured for all participants. All of the cyclists underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) followed by spirometry.
Results: Compared with the controls, 1-FEV 3 /FVC (the fraction of the FVC that was not expired during the first 3 s of the FVC) was greater in athletes with EIB, but also in those with isolated exercise-induced SAD. The exercise capacity was lower in cyclists with isolated exercise-induced SAD than in the controls, but was similar to that in cyclists with EIB. This phenomenon appeared to be associated with a worse ventilatory reserve (VE/MVV%).
Conclusions: According to our data, it appears that professional cyclists may experience no beneficial impacts on their respiratory system. Strenuous endurance exercise can induce airway injury, which is followed by a restorative process. The repeated cycle of injury and repair can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory mediators, the disruption of the airway epithelial barrier, and plasma exudation, which gradually give rise to airway hyper-responsiveness, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, intrabronchial inflammation, peribronchial fibrosis, and respiratory symptoms. The small airways may be affected in isolation or in combination with a reduction in FEV 1 . Cyclists with isolated exercise-induced SAD had lower exercise capacity than those in the control group.