Athletes experience countless medical issues. Though they’re all important, it is beyond the scope of this website to discuss each one individually. Topics may range from rashes in wrestlers, to shortness of breath in runners. Now more than ever, we are aware of infections in sports and their effects on participation.

One complaint we often evaluate is fatigue, or diminished performance. With numerous causes, the evaluation encompasses not only training errors and illnesses, but also hematologic, cardiac, endocrine, and respiratory conditions.

Among the most common contributors is overtraining, or an imbalance in training and recovery. This is especially relevant to overscheduled pediatric athletes.

Common symptoms of overtraining:

  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Increased muscle soreness
  • Overuse injury
  • Poor recovery after workouts
  • Decreased motivation
  • Elevated resting heart rate

Another common medical condition that can affect athletic performance is asthma. One form of asthma is secondary to airway inflammation and often includes exercise-induced symptoms, as well as symptoms independent of exercise. 

Another form of asthma is exercise-induced bronchospasm, which is not inflammatory. This includes an airway sensitivity causing the narrowing of the airway (bronchospasm), typically from exercise. Although treatments may differ depending on the category of asthma, the exercise-induced symptoms are similar.

Symptoms of asthma and exercise-induced bronchospasm:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Decreased exercise performance

Known triggers of asthma:

  • Cold or dry air
  • Air pollution or chemical irritants
  • Allergens
  • Viral illnesses
  • Endurance exercise

To manage symptoms of asthma, patients must understand and mitigate their triggers. Those who cannot manage their symptoms conservatively are often prescribed inhaled medications. Occasionally, we see athletes with shortness of breath who do not respond to these medications, in which case we might suggest reevaluation. 

Not all shortness of breath seen in sports is from asthma. Some cases may involve other conditions, such as vocal cord dysfunction, and are managed differently.