September 23, 2021

Athletic Support for Football Players and Asthma

A picture of a boy playing sports who have an asthma crisis.

As you and your child prepare for the upcoming academic year, your plans may include joining a team sport. If football tops the list of preferred games, they may be relieved to know that many athletes with asthma have found that they can play any sport they want with proper training and the right dose and use of medicine.

A Winning Strategy

Jerome Bettis, Emmit Smith, and Chris Draft are NFL pro players, and all three managed their asthma conditions throughout their careers. They never let it slow them down. Neither should your child.

Each of these elite athletes has learned how to manage and control their asthma by following an action plan, taking all asthma medicines their doctor prescribes, and keeping their coaches informed and up to date on their overall health and well-being. Key to a successful start is management. Before playing sports, your child’s asthma must be under control. In other words, he shouldn’t be having lots of flare-ups.

If your child has a written asthma action plan (AAA) and knows how to monitor their symptoms, he is less likely to visit the ER or be hospitalized. He will miss fewer days of school and practice. An AAA tells your child what to do if symptoms start to get worse. His action plan should be individualized based on his medications, the best peak flow measurement, and medical history. You and your health care provider can work together to develop the plan. Share the plan with the team coach. The more the coaches know about the asthma plan, the better the outcome.

Asthma Precautions to Consider

Let the coach know your child may bring his inhaler to practices, workouts, and games. If your child develops symptoms, such as trouble breathing or wheezing while playing, he can take a break and use his inhaler as prescribed. Wait until symptoms have stopped before going back in.

Warm-ups prior to physical activity are essential for anyone, but they are especially needed for someone with asthma. Athletes with asthma should warm up at least 10 minutes before vigorous play or sprints.

If asthma attacks are triggered by cold weather or allergens, such as pollen, pay special attention to these conditions. Be aware of days when pollen counts are very high and be sure to follow all your doctor’s recommendations. Consider having your child keep a log to determine what causes his asthma symptoms to develop. Does he start wheezing after exercise, do symptoms occur seasonally, or do certain fumes cause his chest to become tight?  Once you identify what triggers the symptoms, he may be able to avoid it.

It is also essential to know when to take it easy. If you have a cold or other types of respiratory infection, asthma symptoms may develop more quickly. Consider sitting the game out if needed. Keep in mind, asthma symptoms can exacerbate, and a condition known as status asthmaticus can develop. This condition may develop when symptoms become severe and do not respond to standard treatment, such as bronchodilators. Status asthmaticus can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Keep the Competitive Edge

Lastly, always talk to your child about their condition. Let them be actively involved in managing their condition. Many young athletes are often very competitive. Combined with youthful feelings of invincibility, that fact may make it challenging to get them to realize the seriousness of asthma when playing sports. In most cases, with proper education, having asthma should not prevent your athlete from getting in the game