An Online Survey of Exercise-Related Headaches Among Cyclists

Authors

  • Karin van der Ende-Kastelijn MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. From the Department of Sports Medicine, Sint Lucas Andreas Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (K. van der Ende-Kastelijn and S. Goedegebuure); Meander Medical Centre, Amersfoort, The Netherlands (W. Oerlemans).
      K. van der Ende-Kastelijn, Sint Lucas Andreas Ziekenhuis, Sports Medicine, Jan Tooropstraat 164, 1061 AE Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands.
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  • Willem Oerlemans MD,

    1. From the Department of Sports Medicine, Sint Lucas Andreas Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (K. van der Ende-Kastelijn and S. Goedegebuure); Meander Medical Centre, Amersfoort, The Netherlands (W. Oerlemans).
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  • Simon Goedegebuure MD

    1. From the Department of Sports Medicine, Sint Lucas Andreas Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (K. van der Ende-Kastelijn and S. Goedegebuure); Meander Medical Centre, Amersfoort, The Netherlands (W. Oerlemans).
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  • Conflict of Interest: No conflict.

K. van der Ende-Kastelijn, Sint Lucas Andreas Ziekenhuis, Sports Medicine, Jan Tooropstraat 164, 1061 AE Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Background.— Primary exertional headache (PEH) is a long-known phenomenon. Divergent prevalences of between 0.2 and 12.3% are reported among the general population. The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence among an athletic population.

Method.— A link to an online questionnaire was sent to all participants of a tough cycling event held in The Netherlands.

Results.— Four thousand participants filled out the questionnaire. One thousand eight hundred and ten (45%) stated that they had suffered, at least once in their lives, from exercise-related headaches (EHs). Thirty-seven percent (668) of them had those headaches at least once a month and 10% (174) experienced a weekly occurrence. The rate of female cyclists with a history of EHs was 54%. With an increasing age, a decline of EHs was found. Five hundred eighty-one (37%) of the participants used medication for EHs.

Conclusions.— An estimation of the prevalence of PEHs among the studied population by comparison to the International Headache Society criteria resulted in a rate of 26%. The lower prevalence among older cyclists could be caused by avoidance of (high-intensity) exercise due to the burden that EH brings along. PEH appears to be quite common among an athletic population and merits further investigation.

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