The recent incident involving AFL player Brady Hough, who was a late withdrawal for the West Coast Eagles before the AFL Western Derby match against the Fremantle Dockers, has shone a spotlight on the issue of asthma in athletes.
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects people of all ages. 1 in 9 Australians have asthma with varying levels of severity. Those with asthma will also have their own set of triggers, which may include exercise.
There are several reasons why athletes are more likely to develop an asthma flare up. One reason is that they often breathe in more air than non-athletes, which can irritate the airways, plus they more likely to be exposed to cold air, dust, and other allergens, which can also trigger asthma flare ups.
For Brady Hough, the issue arose due to the number of times he used his inhaler. Asthma WA reached out to a HealthWA spokesperson who commented on the issue saying “some asthma medicines at high doses have the potential to enhance athletic performance, so there are easily accessed international rules that clarify how they are limited prior to/during competition.
Brady’s story highlights a worrying and common issue that athletes are more concerned about competing than having badly controlled asthma. If someone has used their Ventolin more than the recommended dose, it flags the need to reassess their treatment. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that they could benefit from additional effective medicines that are not limited in or between competitions.“
Here are some important things to consider when playing sport:
- See your doctor for an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan is a written document that outlines your treatment plan for asthma. It should include information about your symptoms, triggers, medications, and what to do in case of an asthma attack.
- Don’t be afraid to use your inhaler. If you have an asthma attack, don’t hesitate to use your inhaler. However, if you need to use it more than what is necessary or recommended, it is time to reassess your Asthma Action plan.
- Get regular flu shots. The flu can trigger asthma attacks, so it is important to get a flu shot every year.
- Manage your stress levels. Stress can trigger asthma attacks, so it is important to find ways to manage your stress levels. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and yoga can all be helpful in managing stress.
If you are participating in sport and have asthma, it is important to manage your condition and your triggers.
Asthma WA CEO Anne Hallam said of the incident:
“1 in 9 Australians live with asthma – many of whom are unaware of their condition. It’s important that if you ever feel like your breathing is affecting your participation or performance sport, you should call the Asthma WA helpline to learn more or reach out to your GP.”
Asthma WA has several resources for athletes, parents and coaches here, as well as the Activ8 for Asthma program, designed for people who work with children in sports such as coaches, trainers, volunteers, parents and teachers. It’s a free, self-guided online training program to help gain confidence, knowledge and skills to best support kids with asthma in their pursuit of playing sports.