Playing to Win with Asthma: Meet Brewers baseball trainer Jeffrey Paxson
For Jeffrey Paxson, diagnosed with asthma at age 10, "no excuses" isn't just a saying, but a way of life. A popular and respected minor league athletic trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club for 22 years, "Pax" devotes 100 percent to everything he does, including managing his teams' needs and his own lung disease.
"Everybody has issues and problems, but the body is a really wonderful thing," he says. "When you set goals, you can do almost anything if you just adapt. For a normal, healthy life, make your asthma condition a priority and go about doing what you need to do the right way."
Recognized for Excellence
Born in Indiana, Paxson currently trains the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a minor league baseball team of the Midwest League, and the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Based in Appleton, Wisconsin, he's responsible for the team's injury prevention and treatment, game preparation and travel. Paxson loves his job and he excels at it.
Paxson been named Athletic Trainer of the Year five times for three separate leagues, and in 2011 received the Minor League Trainer of the Year award from the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. At the time of that prestigious award, the society's president said Paxson "exemplifies everything that is right within our profession."
Setting a Good Example
Paxson understands the rules of managing chronic asthma to prevent flare-ups and he's adapted his lifestyle to control his symptoms. Paxson knows his triggers—he's allergic to pine, and cold weather exacerbates his asthma. Training players for the Dominican Winter Baseball League helps Paxson avoid both cold weather and Christmas tree pollen. In the spring, Paxson returns for the Brewers' spring training in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Sometimes I feel like a "therapist,' because my daughter who's 14 also has asthma," he says. "I am teaching her things, especially when she says 'I can't.' I encourage her to take baby steps to reach her goals, and I remember to practice what I preach and set a good example."
That applies to self-care, and although he hasn't taken oral medications in 20 years, Paxson uses his inhalers as prescribed—one every morning to control the underlying inflammation and another inhaler for quick relief when he experiences symptoms.
As a trainer, he knows exercise is important for people with asthma, because healthy lungs help ensure that the heart and muscles get enough oxygen.
Paxson says just doing his very "physical" job helps keep him in shape. Plus, several years ago he started running—first a half mile, then slowly working up to a mile. "My lungs adapted and they got stronger," he says. He even ran a demanding 50K race four years ago and tries to run five to seven times a week now.
Owning His Asthma Management
A proponent of the motto, "be prepared," Paxson carries his quick-relief inhaler with him everywhere. "I had a panic attack once when I was out on a run. I'd felt really good that day and I made a mistake and left my inhaler at home. As I kept running, I was gasping for air," he says. He made it back to his inhaler and promised himself never to leave it at home again.
On the day we spoke to him, Paxson says he hasn't had to use a quick-relief inhaler for three days. "But I make sure I'm ready just in case, and I take extra measures to be careful, like seeing our team physician regularly," he says. There he reports on what medications he's using and how often, and shares how he's feeling and coping with symptoms.
"When I travel—which is frequently—I make sure I have what I need so I'm not reliant on others," Paxson says. "I know it's my responsibility to manage my asthma."