Just because you have asthma doesn’t mean you can’t play hockey…
By Warren Tabachnick
I have suffered from asthma for most of my life, before realizing that asthmatics can play hockey like everyone else. I’ve gone through just about every kind of treatment ever known. I’ve been hospitalized and placed in oxygen tents as a child, and given adrenaline shots along with some foul-tasting drugs. In case you’re not aware, the symptoms range from wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, to shortness of breath.
A hockey rink is not the friendliest place for asthmatics. The cold, dry air can be a challenge for even the healthiest person; the air must be moist for us to breathe properly. Throw in the exhaust fumes from the ice-clearing equipment—not to mention the mold that frequently festers at most rinks—and you’ve got a pretty toxic environment.
In fact, exercise-induced asthma can affect even those who do not normally suffer from the condition. A University of New Mexico study found that 19% of ice hockey players were diagnosed with asthma and 11.5% with exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
Here’s how I keep on top of my asthma and in the game:
- Doctor’s orders: I faithfully follow the advice of my doctor, taking all medications as prescribed.
- Take two: In the locker room before my game, I have two puffs of a bronchodilator. This keeps my airways open.
- Warm up: Pre-game warm-ups are essential. I skate around before every game to get my heart rate up and the oxygen-rich blood pumping to my lungs.
- Through the nose: As much as possible, I take full breaths and try to breathe through my nose. This way, the air I take in is moister than that which I get through my mouth.
- Short shifts: I always try to limit my ice time to no more than a minute each shift. Otherwise, it takes me that much longer to recharge for the next one.
- Drink up: I’m careful to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the game.
- Shots: During flu season, I make sure to get a flu shot
- The common cold: I do everything possible to avoid catching colds. Like many asthmatics, I’m allergic to my own mucous. Besides the obvious tactic of doing my best to avoid contact with anyone who has a cold, I make sure to wash my hands frequently to keep those cold germs at bay.
- Rest up: Getting the proper amount of rest is critical. It keeps my immune system in top form.
- Skip it: If I find myself out of breath during a game, I skip a shift or two to allow my body to recover.
You know your own body better than anyone. If your symptoms are such that you’re struggling for each breath—or even if you just feel generally lousy—stay home and rest. Finally, if you suffer from asthma, see your doctor. With proper diagnosis and treatment, asthma can be controlled. There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy a normal life, on or off the ice.
Warren Tabachnick has suffered from asthma and allergies since he was 4 years old. He manages to keep his condition under control and enjoy a decent quality of life. Resources: For more information, please refer to the following: “Exercise-Induced Asthma” (The Cleveland Clinic): http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Asthma/hic_Exercise-Induced_Asthma.aspx “Exercise and Asthma” (WebMD): http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/exercising-asthma “Why Do So Many Winter Olympians Have Asthma?” (NY Times, Jan. 13, 2010): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/why-do-so-many-winter-olympians-have-asthma/?_r=0