Jerome Bettis: Living with Asthma
Advocacy Former NFL player, Jerome Bettis, refuses to be sidelined by asthma.
Former NFL running back, Jerome Bettis, remembers the day his life changed. In 1997, he had a serious asthma attack in Jacksonville, Fla., where high humidity was an aggravating factor. “I had a serious episode to the point where I needed emergency medical care right there,” he says, explaining he couldn’t breathe. “I got a shot on the sidelines of the game. They didn’t have time to take me into the locker room.”
From that day on, Bettis, who was diagnosed with asthma as a teen, realized his asthma “was a life or death situation.”
He took his medications regularly and worked with his doctors and team physicians to make sure his asthma was in check.
“For the rest of my career, I was taking Nebulizer treatments before every game,” he says of the breathing treatment.
“Don’t change the dreams or feel you can’t reach them because you have asthma. As long as you manage it and you educate the people around you and yourself, you’ll be fine.”
Don’t change the dreams
The now-retired Bettis, nicknamed “The Bus,” played 13 seasons in the NFL, including a 2006 Super Bowl win with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
These days, his asthma is controlled and he’s an asthma advocate for kids and adults, inspiring them to learn about the condition, treat it and not let it hold them back.
“Don’t change the dreams or feel you can’t reach them because you have asthma,” says Bettis, who runs The Bus Stops Here Foundation to help improve the lives of disadvantaged and underprivileged children. “As long as you manage it and you educate the people around you and yourself, you’ll be fine.”
Living with asthma
According to the American Lung Association, asthma – a chronic lung disease that causes the airways to be inflamed – affects 25.9 million Americans, including 7.1 million children.
Kids and adults with symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing should be tested for asthma.
Through diagnoses and treatment, “You’re able to breath better and then you’re able to accomplish more,” says Bettis, who advises asthma patients to “know your triggers,” which for him include cats, perfume and smoke.
Addressing asthma misconceptions, he says: “You’re not weak, you’re not soft. It’s not that you can’t do it, you have to do it differently.”