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Smoking and Tobacco

Smoking affecting athletic performance...

10/15/2007

Question:

I am 17 years old. I used to smoke 3-5 cigarettes on average on a daily basis when I was 14 from August 2004 to January 2006, when I quit as a new years resolution. However I don`t care about what damage has been done to my body as a result of this...only I do, however, worry about whether I have done too much damage to my body to affect my athletic performance (aerobic capacity, lung usage, alveolus sacs etc). I am a runner at the moment and I am just wondering whether what I have already done to my body through smoking will have affected my body now as to the point that I will never be able to achieve my true potential. Or have I blown it for good? If not, how long will I have to wait until it is safe to say that I am smokefree and can run to my full potential again. Also is there anything I can do to hurry the process along to get my body smokefree (i heard eating fruit helps)?

Answer:

The popular understanding that smoking decreases athletic performance is backed up by a number of scientific studies in young athletes and military recruits. This is likely due to narrowed airways, increased phlegm and carbon monoxide tying up some percentage of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. Smokers are also more likely to be injured. So, for a number of reasons you were wise to quit.

How long will the smoking damage last? I am unaware of any study that has examined that question in regard to athletic performance. I suspect that in a highly trained young athlete, most of the damage has already been reversed, but that some injury may persist. Does it matter? What's done is done. Can you make it get better faster? Aside from good training practices and avoiding further respiratory irritants, I don't know of anything that will accelerate your recovery.

One other aside: most kids who smoke also drink heavily. There is an abundance of data showing diminished training results with alcohol use. My advice: go all the way clean.

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Response by:

Rob  Crane, MD Rob Crane, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University