a person standing next to a deflated soccer ball

Asthma and Soccer

Last updated: August 2021

I never really took part in any sport for long periods as a kid. I just couldn't get through playing a sport, such as soccer, without getting bad asthma. Thinking back, there were probably times when it was dangerous to be involved in any type of physical activity. I was only about 11 or 12, so did not fully understand the danger signs, nor did the adults for that matter.

The only concern ever aired was, "Have you got your inhaler?" That was as far as the concern went. It was strange to think that there was such a laissez-faire attitude to a child who would be finding it difficult getting air into their lungs. "If you've got your inhaler, you won't die." That was basically the thought process. Very true, but it was a strangely mild concern as someone might have if they saw someone sneezing and worrying whether they had a tissue to hand.

School soccer team with asthma

I never made it into the school soccer games as a regular player. This was not solely down to my asthma, although that was a huge part of it. I would normally be brought on as a substitute in the last 15 to 20 minutes to make a big impact, but that never happened because 1) I was scared of the ball hitting me in the face, and 2) I was too anxious about an attack happening. I don't mean a counterattack by the opposition, I mean an asthma attack. Not really the attributes you want from one of your star strikers. I really enjoyed playing, but like so many other things in life, I felt hugely restricted by my breathing.

Doctor's advice

After a trip to the doctor in my teens, he advised me to take my Ventolin inhaler before soccer matches even if my breathing felt fine. This was an important learning curve for me. It meant that I was able to last for longer periods during exercise without needing my inhaler. Also, if my breathing did become tight it would not feel like a massive attack was coming on. This was a game-changer. I felt like I was now able to compete with the rest of my friends in sports, and specifically, soccer.

Aging and exercise

Nowadays, I find any kind of exercise really hard work on both my breathing and my skin. Just prior to the first lockdown here in the UK I took part in an indoor game of soccer. Massive mistake. Even having had my inhalers before, during, and after the game - I felt awful.

I woke up the next morning and could not open my eyes, my asthma was really bad, and eczema had flared. I took the day off work and went to the opticians. I was told that the reason my eyes were so dry and blurred was that I did not hydrate myself adequately before and after the game.

Another lesson learned! But the real scary thought that hit me was that I can no longer run about like a kid anymore. I am approaching my mid-40s, and I have to think seriously about how to keep fit in a safe way.

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