If you are an athlete who has recently been diagnosed with asthma, you may worry that the possibility of taking your sport to the professional level is slipping away with each labored breath you take. You’ll be glad to know, though, that many athletes with asthma are able to manage their symptoms and still excel at their game.

A Common Problem

As many as 20 percent of athletes today are either formally diagnosed with asthma or grappling with the symptoms, which have not yet been officially named. With this condition such a widespread problem, and also a potentially serious one as well, the experts are urging people who participate in sports, and those who coach them, to be proactive when it comes to staying in control of this issue.1

Raising Awareness

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) offers recommendations for certified athletic trainers and health professionals on helping athletes with asthma to manage their condition so they can work up to their fullest potential in the safest possible way.2

Their guidelines can also apply to athletes who are looking for some advice and guidance on how to stay active without making their condition worse. For instance:

  • Recognize the early onset of symptoms (which can include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath) so you can treat them proactively.
  • Have an Asthma Action Plan in place as a guide on how to respond in different scenarios.
  • Take part in exercises as you are able and know when to slow down your pace and effort.
  • Rely on the expertise of the medical experts, such as sports medicine doctors, pulmonologists and allergists, for help and advice when symptoms act up.
  • Turn to alternative practice settings (such as indoors) when outdoor conditions are poor and could set off asthma. Also try to work out in places that offer adequate ventilation and air conditioning on warm days, or skip exercise entirely when it seems like the wisest choice.
  • Stay in regular communication with your doctors (at least once or twice a year or more often if needed) to notice any changes in your condition and alter your treatment plan accordingly.

Reap the Benefits

When you stay on top of your asthma symptoms to ensure that your condition stays well managed, participating in exercise on a regular basis can actually be good for you. It can even make you feel better over time. In fact, NATA says that people with asthma who engage in sports can build up their muscle strength, improve their respiratory health and enhance their overall wellness as a result of their efforts. 3


From a guide Managing Allergies and Asthma in Washington, DC Schools. You can access this at http://www.dcasthma.org/section_6.4_coaches.pdf.

September 2005 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. NATA
offers the following recommendations for certified athletic trainers (ATCs) and other health care professionals to follow:

From a press release on NATA recommendations available at http://www.nata.org/newsrelease/archives/000275.htm.