Battling for a breath

Asthmatic athlete conquers the game

Twenty minutes into the first half of the varsity girls soccer game, freshman Megan Catron broke into chills and could not breathe. The ability to catch her breath felt farther away than the end of the school year. Some signs that an asthmatic athlete is going through an episode are chills and shortness of breath, and causes players to come short of conquering the game when untreated.

Asthma causes airways to become inflamed and restricts airflow. Being the most common health problem in athletes, it accounts for about 20 percent of athletes, according to the Tallahassee Pulmonary Clinic.

“I see asthmatic episodes mostly in the fall and spring when the weather is warm,” athletic trainer Valerie Towery said. “I would estimate I take care of about 10-15 athletes per year who are having difficulty breathing. Less than one time per year, I have to call EMS for them, but about one-fourth of the time I end up calling their parents to come get them to allow them to go home and rest.”

Tallahassee Pulmonary Clinic also reported that asthma is one of the 10 most common causes of sudden death in athletes.  

“Asthma can be scary, mostly when undiagnosed or uncontrolled,” Towery said.

However, there are ways to help asthmatic athletes conquer each and every game.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), there are four steps to help manage asthmatic episodes: 1) Know your asthma triggers, 2) take your asthma medication as prescribed, 3) track your asthma and recognize early signs that it may be getting worse and 4) know what to do when your asthma is getting worse.

“I got asthma in December of 2016, but I wasn’t diagnosed with exercise induced asthma until March,” Catron said. “I play basketball, soccer and golf. When I have an asthma attack, I feel dizzy and like I got the wind knocked out of me. I also want to puke.”

Some of the most common effects of exercise induced asthma are coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

“My very first asthma attack before I was diagnosed with asthma scared me because I wasn’t sure what was happening,” Catron said. “My body got cold, and to cope with it, I laid on my back and tried to take deep breaths even though I couldn’t really breathe.”

Asthma diagnosis is determined by having testing, such as spirometry and methacholine challenge tests.

“Asthma attacks are very scary. They can happen to you at anytime unexpected. During soccer it’s hard for me to play a position that involves a lot of running like outside midfield, which is why my main position is attacking midfielder. My inhaler helps me a lot though, I take it before a game and in between when I need to,” Catron said about how she conquers her asthma.