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Beckham and other sporting asthmatics

By Thomas Cooper
  • David Beckham was pictured taking his asthma inhaler during LA Galaxy's MLS Cup loss to Real Salt Lake
  • Asthma can cause wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing, making exercise difficult
  • High-profile athletes like Paul Scholes, Justine Henin and Dennis Rodman are all asthmatics
  • Soccer
  • David Beckham
  • Asthma
  • Olympic Games
  • Tennis
  • NFL Football

(CNN) -- After being photographed using an inhaler prior to extra-time in his MLS Cup Final, the news that David Beckham has been an asthma sufferer since childhood has propelled the condition into the limelight.

The England midfielder is not the first high-profile athlete to have dealt with asthma, a respiratory condition that affects people's airways -- the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

Despite the difficulties of performing with asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing, many athletes have dealt still managed to reach the peak of their respective disciplines.

Read up on asthma in our health section A-Z.

NBA star Dennis Rodman, footballer Frank Lampard and Olympic swimmers Nancy Hogsehead and Mark Spitz have all suffered from the condition, here are five more of sport's most high-profile asthmatics.

1. Paul Scholes

Beckham's ex-Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes was diagnosed with asthma when he was 21-years-old. One of England's most well respected midfielders, despite keeping a low-profile in general Scholes has always been happy to raise awareness about asthma. In May 2009 he along with fellow English midfielder and asthma sufferer Frank Lampard took part in Asthma UK's campaign to "put asthma in the limelight."

2. Justine Henin

Prior to announcing her (temporary) retirement in May 2008, Belgian tennis player Justine Henin had suggested she may have had to pull out of defending her gold medal at the Beijing Olympics because of worries the city's pollution would trigger her asthma. The grand slam winner had already withdrew from the China Open in September 2007 because of her condition.

3. Jerome Bettis

NFL running back Jerome Bettis was diagnosed with asthma during a high-school football session and in 1997 suffered an attack triggered by the extreme heat in Florida. It did not stop the man nicknamed 'The Bus' and he went on to win the Superbowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bettis has been heavily involved with raising asthma awareness in America.

4. Paula Radcliffe

English long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma as a result of her training when she was a teenager. Despite this she has become one of the most successful marathon runners of recent years, winning both the New York and London marathons among other events.

5. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

American track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee discovered she was asthmatic in 1983 after finding she couldn't catch her breath after periods of exercise. Failing to take her medication properly she suffered a life threatening asthma attack at one point. Eventually getting it under control, Joyner-Kersee went onto win three Olympic gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 games in heptathlon and long jump.