Asthma response training now required for all Minn. coaches

The Minnesota State High School League has joined the Minnesota Department of Health’s asthma program to launch an online training program that teaches coaches about asthma symptoms and how to respond if a student-athlete has an asthma attack.

To ensure athlete safety, the high school league is requiring that all 22,000 Minnesota high school coaches who work with students in grades 10-12 complete the online module. Current coaches must complete it prior to their 2017-18 sports season.

“We encourage anyone who works with youth or children to learn the signs and symptoms of asthma,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “We thank the high school league for working with us to bring this information to coaches and ensure that Minnesota’s student athletes with asthma can compete at the highest levels.”

The module “Athletes and Asthma: The Coach’s Role” went live on the league’s coach’s portal on July 1. The module includes animation, videos and interactions that teach coaches about real-life issues related to asthma and how to help their student athletes control their asthma.

“One of the most important responsibilities of high school coaches is to ensure the safety of their athletes,” said Dr. William Roberts, chair of the league’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. “The league plays a critical role in this by providing training at regular intervals to be sure that these coaches are well-equipped for their roles as leaders.”

Asthma is a chronic disease that can cause airway swelling, hyper-responsive or “twitchy” airways, an overproduction of mucus and tightening of the muscles around the airways. An estimated 393,000 Minnesota children and adults have asthma. In 2015, 61 people died from asthma, including two people under the age of 18. In 2014 there were 21,800 emergency department visits and 3,400 hospitalizations for asthma across Minnesota.

If not well controlled, asthma can impact academic performance and can prevent students from participating in sports and other school activities. While asthma is a chronic disease that cannot be cured, it can be controlled with appropriate medical treatments and by minimizing exposure to things that can trigger asthma symptoms.

Every year approximately 300,000 Minnesota children participate in league-sponsored athletic programs. Among those who participate, one in six young athletes have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their life. This means that on a team of 20 athletes, three are likely to have a history of asthma. MDH recently ran a new analysis of data from the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey and found that 58 percent of Minnesota youth in middle and high school with asthma participate in club, community and school sports teams compared to 57 percent of youth who don’t have asthma.

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