Background: The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of allergic disease in young soccer players compared to age-matched students and to evaluate if this prevalence changes as the intensity of training increases.
Methods: A modified ECRHS questionnaire was administered to 194 soccer players divided by age as Beginners (8–11 years), Juniors (12–16 years) and Under 21 (17–20 years) to evaluate the prevalence of allergic diseases and symptoms as well as drug consumption. Subjects with a positive personal history of allergic diseases underwent skin prick and/or patch tests. Age-matched students (n = 136) were used as a control group.
Results: The prevalence of allergic diseases was 34.5% in soccer players and 31.6% in control subjects (n.s.). Skin sensitization to inhalant allergens was detected in 14.4% of symptomatic soccer players and in 19.2% of control students (n.s.). Patch tests were positive in 35.7% of soccer players and 23.0% of controls with allergic dermatitis (n.s.). The prevalence of allergic diseases did not significantly change in relation to the intensity of training. Although the relative prevalence of sensitization to perennial allergens and asthma was less frequent in soccer players than in controls, and the occurrence of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction was similar in the two groups, soccer players used twice as many anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic drugs as control students.
Conclusions: An increasingly intensive training programme is not associated with greater risk of allergic disease in soccer players. Therapy regimens of allergic athletes and exercisers should be monitored more closely to guarantee adequate treatment yet avoid inappropriate drug use and doping practices.