My name is Chris Draft and I am a NFL linebacker. I am also an asthmatic who has battled asthma since my days as a student athlete. Last August, I was terribly saddened to learn that former NFL player Ickey Woods lost his 16-year-old son, Javonte, due to complications following a severe asthma attack. Javonte would have been a cornerback on his school’s football team. Javonte collapsed following football practice and his doctors feel that extreme heat and poor air quality worsened Javonte’s asthma, ultimately leading to his death.
Student athletes with asthma should be able to practice safely and participate fully in athletics without this kind of tragedy occurring. Unfortunately, many parts of the US, including Cincinnati and Atlanta, have many days during football season when air quality is dangerously poor.
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma is not curable but it can be well controlled with medication. Attacks may still occur when a "trigger," such as air pollution, irritates the lungs.
I work through the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s Asthma Team and the national Winning With Asthma program to raise awareness among coaches and parents about how kids with asthma can safely participate in athletics.
In areas like Atlanta and Macon, with “bad air” days during football season, air pollution can be dangerous for athletes with asthma. Air pollution also negatively affects lung function and can lead to lasting reduced lung function in all student athletes. Coaches should know which of their players have asthma and know what to do in the event of an asthma attack. In addition, coaches in areas that experience “smog alert” days during football season should pay attention to air quality and take steps to reduce the exposure of the athletes in their care to air pollution. Coaches can reduce the risk to their athletes from air pollution by taking these simple steps:
- Monitor air quality daily through the smog alert systems described in Guidance for Georgia Schools: Outdoor Air Quality and Physical Activity (linked to this web page);
- When feasible, adjust time of day of practices to avoid peak pollution times (refer to the Guidelines, as peak times are different for different pollutants);
- Schedule indoor training such as weight training during peak pollution hours on “smog alert” days;
- When there is no good alternative to outdoor practice on a “smog alert” day, reduce the intensity of the workout, take more frequent breaks, and be sure to carefully monitor athletes with asthma.
Let’s ensure Atlanta and Macon do not suffer a tragic loss like Cincinnati’s.
Chris Draft Family Foundation
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