Canadian Basketball player, Nik Stauskas, understands the important role lung health plays in his athletic career. After experiencing firsthand his grandmother’s fight with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), Nik made it his mission to raise awareness for pulmonary fibrosis patients to help inspire a cure.
As a professional athlete, lung health can be vital to performance. How important of a role does breathing play in your basketball career?
In a sport that requires a lot of running back and forth, there is a huge cardiovascular capacity required of us, and breathing plays a huge role in that. Not only for oxygen delivery to muscles, but for me, before every free throw I shoot, there’s always that deep breath that I take. This is absolutely essential in centering myself and gather my thoughts to calm myself down in that moment. Through that I’ve definitely realized the importance of being able to slow down and take that deep breath.
How has lung disease affected you and your family?
My grandmother was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) many years ago, and I saw firsthand the toll that it took on her. At first, it was something I had never heard of before, I was not educated on lung health or the condition and what it could do to people. For me, finding out there was no cure and realizing that for people with IPF, over time their lungs get progressively worse until they were unable to breathe. Seeing my grandmother go through this, and witnessing how serious the condition is, was really scary and eye-opening for me.
What is something you were surprised to learn about lung diseases like IPF?
Learning how common IPF is in Canada and seeing how many people just like my grandmother suffer from these kinds of lung conditions – it’s shocking that you don’t hear about this kind of stuff every day when so many lives are being affected by it. In this day and age, medical science is so advanced there are treatments for almost anything – so for me the biggest surprise was that there was no cure. So many people are really suffering from this and there is nothing we can do to help them, which is why I really want to raise awareness and make a difference in any way that I can.
Why is it important to spread awareness for these types of conditions?
Especially for something like IPF that doesn’t have a cure, the more people that know about it the more research, funding and interest goes into helping those people who are suffering. Before my grandmother’s diagnosis, I had no idea what IPF was, and that’s why I took the initiative to use my platform to make a difference and raise as much awareness as possible. At the end of the day, the more awareness around the subject, the greater the chances of finding new treatment methods and a potential cure for IPF.