Student athlete overcomes Vocal Cord Dysfunction

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It's called Vocal Cord Dysfunction. It's often confused with asthma. But the treatment is much different. (WPVI)

It's called Vocal Cord Dysfunction. It's often confused with asthma, but the treatment is much different.

And for some kids, it can mean the difference between quitting a sport they love or continuing to play.

Analise Kaminski uses "rescue breathing."

She runs track at Saint Marks High School in Wilmington, but until she learned this technique, she almost had to quit.

Last year, during her junior year, she started having trouble breathing in while she was running.

"It kind of felt like my whole neck was closing, and I was wheezing, making noises, collapsing at the finish line," Kaminski said.

At first, she was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, but when inhalers didn't help, they went to see Dr. Patrick Barth at Nemours duPont Hospital for Children.

He diagnosed her with Vocal Cord Dysfunction, or VCD.

It happens when the vocal cords squeeze together tightly when they should be open and relaxed.

With asthma, people feel tightness in their chest, with VCD, Dr. Barth says they always point to their throat as the place they can't get air in.

And speech therapist Julie Hartnett describes how it sounds.

"When we're having trouble breathing in, there's a strider noise, a loud inhalation sound," Hartnett said.

Anxiety also plays a role. The condition is seen more commonly in female, Type A athletes.

"These are the kids who don't need to be pushed. They push themselves," Barth said.

Analise says she can relate, but the exercises to relax her vocal cords has got her back on track, running.

"It makes me feel really good, emotion-wise. It gives you a lot of happiness," Kaminski said.

That breathing technique is taught by a speech therapist.

It typically takes about a 12 sessions for someone to learn how to use it in different situations.

Doctors say other conditions such as asthma and acid reflux are also commonly seen along with VCD, which again can also make it difficult to diagnose.

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