England’s Stuart Broad is one of only seven bowlers in the history of Test cricket to reach 500 wickets, forging a hugely successful career in professional sport despite a lifelong battle with asthma.
Here, the seamer talks about his difficulties in coming to terms with his asthma and how he manages his condition.
What impact did asthma have in your early years?
“My asthma started from the day I was born. I probably became aware of it from the age of six or seven and fully aware of it from 12 or 13 – that’s when I fully started to actually feel like my breathing would get tight and I started to understand what asthma was. I think the biggest thing I suffered with, with my asthma as a teenager was I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. I suppose I was a bit ashamed of having it because I didn’t want to get the judgement from my friends at school. I had an asthma attack when I was 14 and had to have two weeks off school and I just didn’t tell my friends why I was off school. I just said I wasn’t very well which now seems mad.”
How did you get over that?
“My mum played a huge role in it not affecting me with my activities or sport. I think it’s very easy for parents to draw their children away from doing exercise when they have asthma but I was lucky that my mum was a sports schoolteacher, so she was quite clear on how she wanted me to cope with my asthma. She just knew the right sort of limits for me to go. She knew I had to do exercise for my health and wellbeing but knew that the right sort of times to pull me back and rein me slightly, particularly if it was cold in the winter. I used to find, and still do now if I go running in the cold I really tighten up.”
Did your asthma result in you thinking it could affect your future career as a professional cricketer?
“I never had that sense but I think that was purely because of how strong my parents were around it. My mum was quite strong on making sure I learned about my asthma as much as I could through exercise. That gave me confidence that cricket was a sport I could play. Rather than seeing asthma as a barrier that should stop me all the time, it was actually ‘well it might stop me for a little period of time, how do I control it?’ I was quite lucky in a sense that I only had a couple of real major setbacks with my asthma. But my GP was honest with me and showed me techniques of how to deal with it. As soon as you deal with it once it gives you the confidence to know that you can deal with it again.”
What medication do you take now?
“I must stress that my treatment plan is specific only to me. I try not to use too much medication, to be honest. The breathing techniques and awareness of conditions, environments that I can pick up on is something that I try to control my asthma with the most. Life’s not perfect now. There’s been occasions even at 34 when I’ve had to tell the England captain ‘I just need a little rest here, do you mind? There’s reasons for it’. The understanding of someone of that level is awesome.”
Have you a message for youngsters who have asthma and want to become a professional sportsperson?
“Don’t put limits on it, don’t restrict your mind into what your body can do, do research on asthma, it’s important, know what can trigger and cause it. Playing international sport for long periods of time with asthma is doable – that’s a fact. I can sit here and say that. You can control it, you can better yourself all the time with controlling your asthma, so don’t put limits on yourself.”