MONDAY, May 9, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- College athletes who play high-intensity sports such as crew, lacrosse and swimming are at greater risk for gastrointestinal disorders than other students and athletes their own age, new research suggests.
The study, which was slated for presentation Sunday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago, examined 215 male and female athletes and non-athletes.
Researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia found that up to 60 percent of athletes on the university's Division I crew, lacrosse and swim teams experienced at least one symptom of a gastrointestinal (GI) problem, including constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating or pain. In contrast, only half of non-athletes and less than 35 percent of other athletes reported any GI symptoms.
"The mechanics and aerobic dynamic of the highest intensity sports may cause functional GI disorders," Dr. Asyia Ahmad, an associate professor of medicine at Drexel, speculated in a meeting news release.
Rowing, Ahmad warned, is among the most risky sports for GI issues since the sport involves strenuous repetitive motions of the abdominal muscles. "The resulting disorders are the kind that can really impact quality of life," she added.
Symptoms associated with GI troubles can also weigh heavily on an athlete's training and performance. Ahmad said the findings warrant future study into the causes of these disorders among top rowers, swimmers and lacrosse players. "The implications are becoming very important in competitive, high-intensity sports," she said.
Findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary since they have not undergone the rigorous peer review of data published in most medical journals.
The American Gastroenterological Association offers basic facts and details on digestive conditions.