Professional athletes are celebrities

Experiences of celebrities and athletes with asthma

Even high-performance sport is possible with asthma

You are not alone with asthma. Although you may not think it possible, there are a number of well-known and successful athletes who achieve top athletic performance despite their illness. This is astonishing, especially in sport, but up to eight percent of Olympians suffer from asthma, according to at least one study by Australian scientists in which data from the Olympic Games between 2002 and 2010 were evaluated. This means that asthma does not seem to prevent athletes from performing exceptionally well. At the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, for example, the 5.7% Olympic athletes with asthma won 15.6% of the medals.

Asthma and careers in sports are not mutually exclusive. Here is a - certainly incomplete - list of some well-known athletes with this disease.

Prominent competitive athletes with asthma

Anni Friesinger
The speed skater was among the best in the world from 1998 to 2010. It is the best example that elite sport and asthma are by no means mutually exclusive. So that she didn't get breathless while exercising, appropriately dosed training and her medication, which she always carried with her, ensured. Sometimes a hall with dry air gave her problems, then she helped herself with damp cloths that she held over her mouth.

Jan Ulrich
The professional cyclist and winner of the 1997 Tour de France was almost doomed by his asthma. In 2001 he was suspected of doping because of his medication. A medical certificate saved him from sanctions at the time. In 2012 the International Sports Court (CAS) convicted him of doping, but that had nothing to do with the asthma medication.

Sandra Völker
The swimmer, who won over 60 medals at European, World Championships and Olympic Games, was diagnosed with exertional asthma in 2001. In many conversations with other sufferers, she gained experience in dealing with the disease: "To see that you can live symptom-free has given me a lot of courage." With her Sandra Völker Foundation, she now supports children with asthma and allergies.

Dennis Rodman
The American professional basketball player was considered a "bad boy" because of his rowdy behavior. In addition, he was always noticed by his eccentric styling. He played for 14 years in the US professional league NBA basketball and made it into the "Hall of Fame". He managed to do this even though his asthma symptoms were difficult to control because of his allergies.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee
In the women's heptathlon, she is considered one of the greatest Olympians of all time. She was diagnosed with asthma when she was in college, but with the help of her coaches, she got her asthma under control. Today she is an ambassador for the Jeff Gordon Childrens’s Foundation.

Justine Henin
The Belgian tennis player, who won a total of 41 titles in her career, including seven in Grand Slam tournaments and one gold medal at the Olympics, was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 25. Henning says that her asthma was caused by bronchitis. A year later she ended her tennis career not because of the asthma, but for personal reasons. She was number 1 in the world rankings for 120 weeks.

Paula Radcliffe
The fastest female marathon runner in the world set three world records between 2002 and 2005, which were not broken until 15 years later. She was diagnosed with asthma when she was 14 years old and it was exercise-induced asthma. Radcliffe himself said in an interview: “An asthma attack can reduce lung capacity and thus decrease performance if symptoms are not treated and controlled. As a result, some people with asthma feel afraid to exercise because they think it will damage their lungs. Exercise, however, makes the lungs bigger and stronger so that you can better manage your asthma symptoms. If you learn to manage your asthma properly and take the right medication at the right time, then there is no reason why you cannot be at the top in sport. "

Pete Vanderkaay
Top swimmer and four-time Olympic medalist Pete Vanderkaay also suffers from exercise-induced asthma. He runs a website called, the aim of which is to educate the public about misconceptions about asthma.

Famous asthmatics

But also outside of sport we find numerous well-known personalities who are suffering from asthma. They also prove that asthma and a career are not mutually exclusive.

Film business

Sharon Stone
The actress is best known for the 1992 film "Basic Instinct", but has been nominated 41 times for various film awards and awarded ten times (including Emmy and Golden Globe). Stone has both asthma and diabetes.

Jessica Alba
The American actress has appeared in 36 feature films and numerous television films, and has won the Golden Globe and other awards. She has also founded a company for natural cosmetics. She developed pneumonia and asthma as a child, but she made her way as both a Hollywood actress and a successful business woman.

Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton is also an award-winning actress, director, and producer. Her asthma didn't start until she was an adult, but it hasn't stopped her from starring in over 40 films, winning Golden Globes, Emmys, and an Oscar.

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese is a well-known director, screenwriter and producer and has been hailed as one of the most influential and notable filmmakers of our time. Scorsese has had asthma since childhood and says of himself: "As a child I had terrible asthma and movies were kind of a haven for me."


Billy Joel
The six-time Grammy Award winner (nominated for 23 Grammys) is one of the most productive and best-selling musicians worldwide. He has such severe asthma that a few years ago he had to cancel a concert due to an acute asthma attack. Nevertheless, his asthma does not prevent him from achieving long-term success as a singer, pianist, songwriter and composer for years.

The singer Pink also developed asthma in childhood. Her doctor recommended that she take singing lessons and breathe from her stomach instead of her chest while singing. This technique helps her control her asthma while performing.

Kristina Bach
The pop singer has suffered from asthma since childhood and says: “I know that you can manage this disease and live with it carefree.” She is the patron of the “German Allergy and Asthma Association” and fights for more tolerance and education on the subject of asthma.

What should asthma patients watch out for when exercising?

  • Start training slowly and let it end slowly
  • Do long, balanced warm-up training
  • Avoid violent changes in load
  • Use bronchodilator medication before each exercise as directed by your doctor
  • Always carry asthma spray with you when exercising
  • The best thing to do is to choose movement training that allows you to rest between the stress phases