Sport and diabetes

I honestly cannot say enough about how important physical activity  is a MUST  in controlling blood sugar levels and living a Better Life  for diabetics.  It has helped me  so much that  there is nothing I like writing about more than the benefits of physical activities, exercise and  sports  in controlling this disease and hopefully eliminating or at least  decreasing or delaying many or most of the debilitating effects it can have.    You will live a healthier life both physically and mentally if you work out — diabetic or not!!

Now that I’ve gotten my point across how good exercise is for us I have to be honest and pass to the other side of the coin…   Physical exercise , sport etc.. is more CHALLENGING for diabetics than it is for non-diabetics and precautions do need to be taken.  Here is something that happened to me a long long time ago when I was much younger.   

I’ve always loved the sport of tennis and have been an avid fan and player since in my teens.  Every Saturday I would play tennis early in the morning with a tennis friend.  We knew each other for quite some time but I never mentioned to him that I was diabetic.  My diabetes in my younger days was something almost nobody knew about and I kept it secret on the same level as  Houdini kept his greatest magic escapes  secret…

I got up that fateful morning, took my insulin injections (then NPH+REGULAR), had some coffee and whole wheat crackers  and left for the court.  Nothing special up till now.   Don’t remember what my blood sugar level was when I got up that morning  but there probably was no reason  for concern or I probably would have paid attention to eating more.  Don’t remember exactly why this happened (maybe I was in a hurry) but  I didn’t  take any  glucose tablets, sweet drinks or anything else along with me which could raise my blood sugar levels quickly if I needed it.  I lived only 5 minutes from the courts so getting home quickly was no big deal – or so I thought.   What I remember now about that day was that it was  hot and humid day and the tennis match went on forever. The regular insulin injection I took in the morning began kicking in strong after a few hours!    The longer the match went on the weaker and worse I felt. If I had any brains I would have gotten off the court at the first signs of weakness and shakiness  – but winning the match was much more important.  I soon found it really hard to run to my opponents shots and  knew something was wrong  but I continued to play.  It must have been at least 15 minutes or more  that I could have gotten off the court (while my brain was still working) but I now reached the point where I was  almost completely brain dead  and running on empty.   No idea what I was thinking at this point except maybe ‘hit the ball’ (which was pretty impossible at this point).    Just about  the last things I do remember was that double vision had set in.  If it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t run (or hardly stand up for that matter)  now  I  was seeing 2 tennis balls flying by me and something in my brain-dead brain knew I was going to pass out.  I don’t really remember much after that  but I did manage to start getting  off the court and mutter to  my partner that I was a diabetic and needed something sweet.  That was the last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital after being in a coma  for almost 2 days from  insulin shock.  Definitely not one of my better matches or days on the tennis court..!!!

Luckily (for my kids who weren’t born yet)  — I did survive and live to tell the tale… but there are lessons to be learned.  Here’s a list of things I MAYBE could have done  better,  smarter  etc,etc… to have prevented the above.

1. If you are going to participate in any competitive sport make sure you lower your dosage of insulin and always take into consideration the insulin curves.  If  you took an injection of regular insulin  which starts to work after 1/2 to 1 hour and has peak action  after 2 hours  then you better make sure your blood sugar levels are up high enough to compensate.  Don’t rely on chance or pure luck (it doesn’t always work in your favor) — CHECK YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS PERIODICALLY and eat accordingly.

2. Always have some quick  acting glucose tablets like GLUCOTABS available as well as a liquid glucose drink (which is something quicker/easier to take – or pore down you if you lose consciousness). Always have a supply and  keep  them available everywhere so you don’t run out. I  keep them in my pocket at all times, I keep them in my pouch, I keep them in my gym & pool bag and I keep them in the glove compartment of my car.  You can’t be too careful but you can always be too careless!

3.  Since I got this sweet disease when I was in my teens I never wanted anyone knowing about my diabetes.  It’s nobodies business and I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me.  Most people out there just don’t understand this diseases and for the most part I never wanted to go around explaining it.  That said –   today I do not  keep this disease a national secret like I did in my younger days.   Friends,  people I work out with, play tennis or other sports with or I’m in close contact  with are let in on my secret.  I just tell them to keep it quiet.  Most of them do… and the rest  I just don’t talk to anymore….:-)  If on that day my tennis partner would have known I was diabetic maybe he would have been smart enough to see something was wrong and get me off the court and give me something to eat …  and prevent a near death experience.




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I'm a type-1 diabetic which has changed my life for what I hope is the better. My profession - at least what I get paid to do is computers (sysadmin). I'm a life long sports enthusiast and try to practise what I preach when it comes to being physically active. Still trying to achieve better diabetic control by juggling my diet, exercise and injections... As for things that interest me aside from sport -- I like keeping up on biotech research & medical devices and listening to country and western music.

Posted in diabetes control, sport and physical workouts

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