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Athletes With Asthma

Former NFL star Jerome Bettis has battled asthma since he was 15.
Jerome Bettis
Even with asthma, Kaitlin Sandeno set world records in swimming.
Kaitlin Sandeno

Asthma is a condition that affects 17 million people in the United States alone. Each year, 5,000 people die from the condition annually. But having asthma doesn't mean they can’t excel at sports. Here are two professional athletes that prove you can beat your illness.

Jerome Bettis

The way Jerome "The Bus" Bettis used to effortlessly plow through defenses, you would never know he had asthma. The Bus ended up having a storybook 12-year NFL career, which including six Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl championship in 2006. Jerome was diagnosed with asthma when he was 15 years old. Bettis admits that he was concerned that he would no longer play sports, but his parents encouraged him to keep playing football but also listen to the doctors. Bettis maintained an effective asthma program throughout high school, but admits to being lazy about it after that. That almost cost him his life, as he had a serious asthma attack during an NFL game in 1997. After that scare, Bettis started taking his ailment more seriously and now serves as an advocate for handing asthma responsibly. He is part of the Asthma All-Stars Program - which encourages people to live lives with asthma without limits. It also teaches people to work with a doctor to create an asthma action plan.

Jerome Says…

"A lot of times, asthmatics don't understand control. They may think their condition is not that bad. But asthma is so unpredictable. ...I'm urging people with asthma to confer with their doctors to get a game plan."

Kaitlin Sandeno

Kaitlin Sandeno is one of the best swimmers on the planet. She was part of the U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay team that won gold and set a world record at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. At those Olympics, she also won a silver and bronze medal in individual events. The 25-year-old California native, first discovered she had asthma as a 12-year-old. But with hard work and good medical care, Kaitlin is a world class athlete. She is currently a spokeswoman for asthma awareness and the perfect role model for young athletes with the medical condition.

Kaitlin Says…

"Nobody's really educated about asthma and I'm really glad I can help spread awareness. It's great to be able to tell people, 'I'm an Olympic athlete and I can still pursue an athletic career.' I really enjoy talking about it and doing on-camera interviews, because that's something I want to do after my swim career."

Other Athletes With Asthma

  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Legendary female track athlete who won six medals throughout her Olympic career.
  • Dennis Rodman - One of the greatest rebounders in NBA history. Rodman also won six NBA championships.
  • Amy Van Dyken - A six-time Olympic gold medal winner in swimming. She has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, Time and USA Today.
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