Sports Respiratory

Running teenage girl soccer playerMany people experience breathing difficulties with exercise. Several conditions can cause breathing issues with exercise. Asthma is only one.


  • Difficulty or “heavy” breathing with exercise is NOT always normal or simply from being “out of shape”
  • Breathing issues DO limit stamina and performance
  • There are SPECIALISTS who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of treating issues associated with exercise
  • These conditions are very TREATABLE
  • Treatment, STAMINA and PERFORMANCE can significantly improve

Common Conditions

  • Asthma
  • Vocal cord dysfunction
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Hyperventilation
  • Airway malacia
  • Musculoskeletal abnormalities

Common Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Wheeze
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Poor performance
  • Decreased stamina

Symptoms May Very Because of:

  • Weather/Temperature
  • Season
  • Airway irritants (pollution, chlorine, smoke, etc.)
  • Allergens
  • Type of activity
  • Emotion

Common Misperceptions:

  • Athlete is faking
  • Athlete is lazy
  • Athlete is out of shape
  • Athlete is over reacting
  • Nothing can help the problem
  • It will just go away
  • It isn’t serious


  • Accurate diagnosis of the conditions causing the difficulty can often require a specialist.  For children, teenagers, and young adults, Pediatric Pulmonologists are the specialist trained to deal with these issues.
  • Diagnosis can sometimes be made without testing, but often the pulmonary function tests are used.  Additional tests that are sometimes required include:
    • Exercise challenge test
    • Radiologic tests
    • EKG or Echocardiogram


  • Almost all of these conditions are treatable
  • Treatment, stamina and performance can significantly improve or should no longer be limitation
  • Some conditions require medications to treat, others do not