Athletes and Chronic Conditions
Having a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes does not necessarily mean that one has to watch from the sidelines anymore. Athletes are able to participate in their favorites sports with the right kind of condition monitoring, precautionary measures, as well as being prepared having the proper medications and nutrition on hand. These famous athletes with chronic conditions were able to persevere despite their diagnoses. If you are interested in pursuing a career in professional sports, you should consult your physician to assess risk before playing team sports.
Athletes and Chronic Conditions: Asthma
Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among athletes, especially Olympic athletes, affecting about 8%. Additionally, around 15-25% of athletes may also exhibit signs or symptoms of asthma. When an athlete is engaging in rigorous physical activity, it is very important to understand one’s asthma “thumbprint”. They should know: what are their asthma triggers; do they only experience problems during exercise; do other factors, such as mold, allergies, or dust mites, affect their asthma?
In addition to knowing an athlete’s asthma triggers, one should also be aware of steps used to prevent asthma attacks, and what to do if an attack occurs. Athletes can pre-treat by using a short-acting bronchodilator inhaler within 15 minutes prior to exercising. Furthermore, doing exercise warm-ups and cool-downs can help condition the lungs, prevent attacks, and reduce reliance on inhalers. However, if an attack should occur, the individual should use their short-acting bronchodilator inhaler again, or seek medical attention if the attack is severe.
Athletes and Chronic Conditions: Type 1 Diabetes
Individuals with type 1 diabetes may also feel as though they need to pass on athletic opportunities due to the restrictions of their condition. However, with proper precautions and monitoring, they should feel just as inclined to participate in sports as anyone! Exercise is an important therapeutic tool for those with diabetes. Just as athletes with asthma should know about their thumbprint, diabetic athletes should be aware of their individual signs of hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include: excessive sweating, weakness/fatigue, shaking, light-headedness, headaches, irritability, confusion, dizziness, hunger, and impaired vision.
Before participating in sports, anyone with diabetes should have a care plan listing their blood glucose target levels during practice/games, a list of current medications, and an emergency contact. Exercise can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, so it is important to check blood glucose before, during, and up to 4 hours after exercising. If one’s blood glucose levels drop too far, he or she should consume a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as honey, and continue to monitor levels until safe.