Scientific Research Coming to the Aid of Olympians in Rio

The Olympics are an exciting time. Every four years it gives nations the opportunity to showcase the world’s greatest athletes. Olympians face a tremendous amount of adversity and challenges in reaching for the gold medal. Unfortunately for some athletes, one of those challenges comes in the form of asthma. Earlier this week the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a closer look at Olympians, asthma, and animal research and testing in a very interesting blog post.

Even though Olympians represent an elite segment of society, their susceptibility to asthma is on-par with the average person. Eight percent of Olympic athletes, according to a recent study by the University of Western Australia, live with asthma. That’s the same percentage as the American public. But asthma doesn’t stop them. In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 17% of cyclists and 19% of swimmers were diagnosed with asthma. Those asthmatic athletes went on to win 29 and 33 percent of the medals, respectively, in those sports. During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 700 of approximately 10,000 competing athletes were diagnosed with asthma and, surprisingly, they were almost twice as likely to win a medal as their non-asthmatic peers. If trends from past Olympic Games continue, there may be similar statistics in Rio this summer.

Animal research and testing likely has had an impact on the success of these competitors who otherwise may not have been able to compete. In the 1940’s, cats and frogs were influential in the development of the earliest asthma medications.  Guinea pigs, rabbits, and rats have been critical in perfecting those medications and in the development of the inhaler in the 1960’s. Thanks to those animals many athletes have been given the opportunity to represent their nation in the sports they love.

So while you’re watching your favorite Olympic event don’t forget that many of the athletes you’re watching, whether they took ibuprofen for pain relief while training or currently use medications to treat chronic asthma, in some way owe their success to products of animal research. In fact some may say that animal research has already won a gold medal for its victories in the race against disease.

To read FBR’s interesting and informative coverage of animal research and testing helping Olympians, please click here.