Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that requires a lot of physical and mental capacity. If you are someone who deals with asthma, you have another hurdle to deal with beyond the normal challenges of BJJ.
Jiu-Jitsu – or any other combat sport isn’t for everyone, but you should not let asthma stop you from training if you have the desire to grapple.
In this MMAWhisperer medical discussion, we look at the following with regards to BJJ and asthma:
- What asthma is and how it affects BJJ
- Action steps to respond to an asthma attack during rolls
- Whether BJJ can help with asthma
- Strategies for practicing and competing Jiu-Jitsu with asthma
Now, take a deep breath and let’s do this!
Table of Contents
What Is Asthma And How It Affects Your BJJ Journey
Asthma is a respiratory problem that affects your lungs directly. People that undergo asthma attacks struggle to breathe. While avoidable, asthma attacks can be fatal.
In fact, around 3 people in the US die from an asthma attack daily.
Asthma is most common in children but a lot of adults suffer from them too.
We don’t know exactly what causes asthma yet but factors such as genetics, the environment, and your occupation are all possible roots of the problem.
Since this is a problem that affects your lungs, asthma can affect your time in Jiu-Jitsu – whether you are a beginner in BJJ or an experienced competitor.
Asthma is often described as the sensation of having someone or something heavy press on your chest, making it difficult for you to breathe.
Heavy Pressure In BJJ Can Be As Bad As An Asthma Attack
If you’ve ever been choked in BJJ or just had heavy pressure from a top player, you know that Jiu-Jitsu training can have a similar effect.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to be under someone in BJJ while you’re having an asthma attack?
Some people live with asthma normally. They only have a problem if the condition is triggered, and the attack begins. The common factors that trigger an asthma attack are:
- Allergies (animal fur, pollen, dust mites, smoke, pollution, etc.)
- Colds or flu
- Certain medicine such as Ibuprofen and aspirin
- Intense emotions
- Sudden changes in weather or temperature
- Mold or dampness
Almost all of these factors can trigger your asthma while training Jiu-Jitsu. Say you’re competing for instance. It’s the last match.
The fight is tough and even but on top of that, you’re feeling the pressure from the competition as well. The fatigue and anxiety from the fight are what can start an asthma attack.
Depending on how many times a week you train Jiu-Jitsu, it is likely that you will eventually have an asthma attack during rolling if you struggle with asthma.
The good thing is that asthma attacks don’t happen instantly. When you’re training or are in a fight, take note of these important symptoms:
- Severe shortness of breath
- Coughing or wheezing
- Tightening of chest
Now, let’s talk about what you can do to respond to an asthma attack while doing Jiu-Jitsu.
Check the official CDC website for the most up-to-date medical information on asthma.
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Responding to an Asthma Attack While Doing BJJ
1. Stop And Take A Rest
Before anything else, you should take a breather. Once you feel your chest tightening, it would be wise to tell your team what’s happening. Sit down for a while and relax.
If You Feel an Asthma Attack Coming On, Stop and Rest
During this time, try to control your breathing.
It can be tempting to press on during competition but keep in mind that this is your health at risk. Moreover, your performance is going to suffer greatly if you undergo an asthma attack during a fight.
Recovery times vary from person to person. Just to be safe, don’t get back on the mats if your breathing is still not normal.
2. Remove Your Jacket
Some gis are really heavy. The last thing you’d want is to have your body carry additional weight while you’re having an asthma attack. Some gis can also keep the heat within your body so it gets too hot for comfort.
It would be wise to take off your jacket while you’re having an asthma attack. This will make your body feel cooler and it can also help you breathe better.
3. Use Your Inhaler
If you’re a person suffering from asthma, you should NEVER leave your home without your inhaler. This is basically your lifesaver during an asthma attack.
Now, when it comes to competition, the IBJJF doesn’t restrict inhalers per se.
Always Bring Your Inhaler When Training BJJ With Asthma
However, most inhalers include steroid components such as Ventolin. This drug isn’t allowed by the IBJJF.
If you’re training though, inhalers are welcome.
Can BJJ Help With My Asthma?
There is no known cure for asthma.
Your doctor will most likely suggest avoiding your triggers to prevent an attack.
They will also recommend taking up physical activities that can help improve your respiratory health. Most would recommend yoga and swimming.
Some doctors also recommend combat sports to help with asthma.
Wrestling, BJJ, Boxing, and many other combat sports all include short intermittent bursts of energy. This will help better condition your lungs for an asthma attack.
The short bursts of energy in combat sports may help condition against asthma
While it’s not proven yet, some doctors believe that BJJ, Judo, and Wrestling are good sports because they strengthen your neck muscles.
Doing cardio training for Jiu-Jitsu can also help you stay healthy and fit, making you less susceptible to life-threatening conditions.
As your neck muscles strengthen, your breathing becomes significantly better as well.
Of course, you shouldn’t overdo yourself when it comes to any of these exercises. It’s still best to go only a few inches past your limit so that you don’t trigger an asthma attack.
Tips For Practicing and Competing in BJJ With Asthma
1. Inform Your Coach
BJJ gyms aren’t going to turn you away just because you have asthma. That said, it’s very important that you let them know about your condition as well.
This is crucial because by doing this, they know how to train you better. They’ll also be more prepared just in case you have an asthma attack while doing BJJ.
2. Warmup and Cool Down
Warming up before training or a match is important even if you’re healthy. However, it becomes even more crucial if you’re suffering from asthma.
Doing a proper warmup routine before doing BJJ will open up your respiratory system and prepare it for the physical activity ahead.
After training or competing, don’t forget to cool down so that your body conditions itself as well.
3. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
This should be a given by now but don’t push yourself. You’re risking your health and well-being by pressing on even during an asthma attack. If it happens in a competition, bear in mind that you can always come back another day.
As for training, you can still learn without having to do any physical activity. Keep a close eye on the techniques and make sure to apply them during the next open mat session.
4. Avoid Thick And Heavy Gis
Try to get lightweight gis. They aren’t as durable as heavier weaves but at least you aren’t putting yourself at risk.
Lightweight Gis Are A Good Choice If You Have Asthma
Lightweight gis put less pressure on your breathing and keep your body cooler as well.
Consider the Fuji Summerweight BJJ Uniform as a good lightweight Gi
Asthma Attack During Jiu-Jitsu – Final Thoughts
Asthma isn’t a death sentence for your BJJ career.
You can still be competitive and active in BJJ even if you have asthma. It helps greatly that you know what to do to prevent attacks as well as what to do during one.
Do you have any tips for your fellow BJJ lovers that have asthma? Comment below!
We have lots of other health-related topics on MMA Whisperer so don’t forget to browse the website for your questions!