Asthma and youth soccer: An investigation into the level of asthma awareness and training among youth soccer coaches

Sadasivan C, Cave A. J Sport Med. 2019;10:17-31.

Full Text Freely Available

Take Home Message: Youth soccer coaches acknowledge the need for asthma-related training to prevent and manage asthma attacks.

An athlete with asthma is prone to an asthma attack during high ventilation sports, such as soccer. Additionally, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction occurs in nearly 90% of people with asthma – sometimes resulting in death. Due to this chronic, potentially life-threatening disease, researchers from Canada wanted to know if youth soccer coaches were aware of how to recognize, treat, and prevent asthma attacks. The authors also aimed to determine if there was a need for asthma-related training along with any potential barriers to administering such training. The authors invited 2,300 volunteer youth soccer coaches to complete an anonymous online 22-question survey (available via the link above). Overall, 22% of coaches completed the survey. Many coaches have only coached 1 or 2 seasons (45%). Respondents included coaches from all youth soccer age groups; however, 80% of coaches responded that they worked with U5 to U11 age groups. Almost all coaches (93%) reported no asthma-related training. However, most of the coaches knew how to treat an asthma attack and how to identify an athlete who is out of breath on the field. A coach with greater years of experience or working with older athletes was more likely to have greater knowledge in how to prevent an asthma attack. Coaches with asthma or who have a child with asthma had more correct answers to treatment and prevention than those who had not. Over half the coaches said they were unsure how many players on their current roster have asthma and nearly 60% did not know how many asthma-related incidents they had encountered as a coach. Still, 52% of coaches said they knew how to treat a player who is having an asthma attack. Almost all coaches (91%) believed including asthma management during coach training would be beneficial. More experienced coaches felt a pocket guide would be the most suitable way to include this training while a few coaches of the younger age groups wanted a separate hour-long training course. Most coaches (69%) believed asthma-related training should be mandatory.

Coaches are aware that there are deficiencies in their training when it comes to asthma. The willingness of coaches to receive more training for recognition, prevention, and treatment of this disease is heartening for parents, athletes, and healthcare providers. Coaches are potential first responders especially since some practices or games may not have an athletic trainer or other healthcare professionals on the sideline. The researchers recognized certain limitations with the low response rate (22.3%) and the sport-specific nature of this study, which raises the curiosity of whether this translates the same in the United States and with other sports outside of soccer. Considering the prevalence of asthma in young athletes, coaches of any sport can help identify and help athletes manage their asthma during activity. Parents of asthmatic children do not want to worry about their child’s safety while at a practice or game, nor do they want to restrict their child’s participation in high ventilation athletics due to uncontrolled asthma. A pocket guide or separate training module may help bridge the gap between a coach’s acknowledgment of their deficiency in this area, prevention of asthma attacks, and ability to confidently treat an asthma attack before it becomes fatal. Additionally, communication between parents and coaches at the beginning of the season regarding procedure during an asthma attack will also increase confidence and trust between all participants. Sports medicine professionals may consider reaching out to youth leagues to offer them opportunities to educate coaches about asthma and the importance of knowing who on their team has asthma.

Questions for Discussion: Do you feel confident that coaches are adequately trained in asthma-related in the United States? What method or methods do you think would be most effective in training and education of coaches?

Written by: Catherine E. Lewis

Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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