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Fulham Football Club wanted to ensure its players had the best respiratory function and to ensure their lung health was in optimal condition. The team physician turned to Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital Specialist Care for help.

Dr Steve Lewis, Fulham Football Club's team physician, was aware of recent work performed by physicians at Royal Brompton Hospital indicating a tendency to misdiagnose asthma in footballers and wanted to ensure his team members were not put in this position.

He was aware that high-performance athletes, including footballers, can exhibit what appear to be signs and symptoms of asthma, however, without proper testing the diagnosis may be inaccurate or missed.

"It is paramount that a sound diagnosis is made in order to properly identify and treat the condition, and to ensure that both the health and performance of players is optimised," said Dr Lewis.

Is asthma a common problem in athletes?

The prevalence of asthma has been found to be very high in athletes, particularly in swimmers and those who partake in the sport in cold weather.

Dr James Hull, consultant respiratory physician at Royal Brompton Hospital, specialises in the diagnosis of respiratory problems in athletes. It was, therefore, a logical partnership for Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals’ private patients’ centre to help evaluate players from Fulham Football Club – in order to provide a comprehensive assessment for the team.

"Fulham Football Club places the health of its players above all, and wanted to provide them with the latest in sports diagnostics in order to best support them on and off the pitch," said Dr Lewis.

‘Dry Air Challenge’

Over the next few weeks, the players attended for a highly specialist asthma test, which is the highest standard test for diagnosing asthma in athletes.

The test involves a player performing a series of blowing tests to look at the function of the airways. These tests are performed before and after a dry air challenge test; called eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea (EVH).

The EVH test aims to simulate what it is like to be exercising in a cold environment and therefore acts to mimic an exercise period without the player having to run. It is very effective at simulating the same type of conditions that cause asthma – but is a very safe test.

After the tests

The test outcome could indicate that the player does have asthma and should be treated with inhaler medication. The test also allows an evaluation of breathing control and to help an athlete with this aspect of their care – with the specialist physiotherapy services at the Brompton.

"It was reassuring to be tested by Dr Hull and his team. I know that my breathing is not compromised so my performance can be at its peak," said Brede Hangeland, Fulham FC's team captain.

"I had a bit of asthma when I was younger so I wanted to make sure I didn’t need any medication or treatment now. The tests and talking to Dr Hull gave me a better understanding of how my lungs are working and what I can do to make sure they are always at their best," said Alexander Kačaniklić, midfielder.

For those who do suffer from asthma, the goal of treatment is to allow athletes to exercise safely and provide the proper treatment to allow them to maximise their competitive performance.


Consultant

Dr James Hull

Consultant respiratory physician