Friday, April 27, 2012

Cool! Weird skin diseases of elite Olympic athletes

If you're into this sort of thing, as I am, an entertaining review just came out in the journal Sports Medicine [media summary], detailing all the skin disorders that Olympic athletes must contend with in addition to trying to beat Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt or any Kenyan marathoner or Cuban boxer. Boy, are there a lot of weird dermatoses out there. Jogger's nipples, rower's rump, cauliflower ear, green hair, swimmer's itch, seabather's eruption, talon noir, jellyfish stings.

Contact dermatitis is a popular one. You run the risk of getting it in all the fighting sports--judo, wrestling, boxing--as well as many of the team sports.

Eczema gets hardly a mention--save for one interesting fact the authors, Jacqueline De Luca of the University of Hawaii and colleagues, mention. "Pre-existing dermatoses can also be aggravated with practice and competition," they say. "This is especially problematic given the fact that prevalence of eczema and atopy are higher in the elite athlete population."

Cool, so eczema makes me more athletic then!

Well, not really. The authors' reference is this article, which was written in advance of the 2008 Beijing Games and mostly considers asthma with only a brief nod to eczema. There was a lot of worry about air pollution at those Games, I remember. The older article points out a higher incidence of asthma in elite athletes, and attempts to explain why--perhaps extreme exercise, with its high air intake, increases allergic sensitization.

So being athletic puts you at higher risk of getting asthma. I'm not very athletic...maybe that's what saved me from becoming asthmatic. Looking on the bright side!

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