OSLO, NORWAY – It’s a well known fact that cross-country skiing is among the worst offenders when it comes to increasing risk of exercise induced asthma and has some of the highest use of asthma medicine among elite athletes.
According to the Norwegian TV station NRK, as many as half of the skiers on the Norwegian national team have asthma.
“These are not exact numbers, but we test the national team every year, and about half of them show sure signs of asthma,” says Kai-Håkon Carlsen, professor at the Norwegian College of Exercise Science (NIH).
Cold and stress to blame
Brutal competitions and training in at times extreme cold is part of the reason why so many cross-country skiers suffer from asthma.
“Asthma is particularly prevalent in cross-country skiers. The longer an athlete is pursuing the sport, the higher the risk of developing asthma problems,” the expert says to NRK.
“Events such as Tour de Ski where the athletes have several events back to back put extreme stress on the airways,” Carlsen explains.
Athletes who develop asthma through extreme training also put themselves as increased risk of other health problems. “A regular physician would suggest these patients reduce their stress level. But for these athletes, their training is the most important pursuit in the world. And they have to train that way in order to perform and produce the results they expect,” Carlsen says.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.