Ask the doctors

My nephew has cystic fibrosis. Is it safe for him to participate in sports?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common genetic disease in North America but has the lowest incidence among Asians.

It affects a gene that regulates chloride transport in the body, an abnormality that may cause secretions in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine and reproductive systems.

Patients lose a lot of salt in their sweat, which is how doctors often make the diagnosis. Most individuals are diagnosed by age 10, and lung disease often affects individuals in their 20s.

For children with CF to lead safe and normal lives, adults should encourage them to participate in physical activities. Coughing during exercise should not necessarily stop activity.

But consult with a sport medicine physician or paediatric respirologist first, as exercise testing may be needed for those with severe conditions.

They may even join endurance events such as marathon running. Exercise usually has positive effects, helping ease symptoms and boosting confidence. To your nephew, I say, "Play ball!"

Dr Anthony Luke is a professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine's