Playing Soccer With Asthma


For soccer players with asthma, fall can bring a new set of challenges with it. The crisp air and the rising pollen counts in early fall can exacerbate exercise-induced asthma attacks in players, even in those with rare recurrences.

During an asthma attack, air passages in the lungs can become so inflamed and narrow that it makes it difficult to breathe. Typically, about 15 minutes into the game, players begin to feel their chest tighten, develop a dry hacking cough and become short of breath. The unpleasant sensation can last for up to an hour after being sidelined.

Fortunately, for soccer players with asthma, there is a myriad of inhalers available for symptom control. A prescription is definitely warranted if attacks become problematic and recur weekly or even daily. There are so many different types of similar inhalers that it could make your head spin. However, these really boil down to two major categories: the short acting albuterol (Ventolin) and the long acting combinations of steroid and dilator inhalers.

Short acting inhalers are for acute attacks and for just before intense exercise. Long acting inhalers are controller medications that are like the vitamins of the asthma world and are used daily to prevent attacks. They are usually combinations of a long acting bronchodilator and inhaled steroid that help keep the airway inflammation and diameter in check. Ideally for soccer players with asthma, a prescription for both will significantly reduce asthma worries when playing.

With more than 22 million people living with the chronic airway illness in the United States, 6 million of those being children, there has been much research on the causes of the disease and how to manage it. Check out these tips for players with frequent exacerbations:

  • Invest in more than one short acting albuterol inhaler.
    Keep an inhaler in your gym bag, on your night stand or in your locker that way when you’re hit with an attack, you’re good to go.
  • Have an asthma “action plan.”
    If you’re having allergy symptoms just walking out on the field and are prone to attacks, then chances are you’ll wheeze. Discuss triggers with your doctor and know what to do when the pollen counts are high.
  • Warm up. Then, rest.
    Warm-up for 1o minutes vigorously a half-hour before a practice or game, then rest for 10-15 minutes. These warm-ups induce a “refractory period” that lessens the severity of airway narrowing after the warm-up.
  • Breathe through your nose.
    Grandma was right. Breathing through your nose when the air outside is chilly is better for you, especially when you have asthma. This is because breathing through your nose warms and humidifies the dry air that can trigger an attack.