Raising a Child with Diabetes: The Athlete

Raising a Child with Diabetes: The Athlete

Raising a Child with Diabetes: The Athlete

I remember when I found out that I was pregnant. At first, I was scared and nervous, but after the news sunk in all I could do was wish for a little boy. As an avid football fan, I wanted to be a football mom. When the news from the sonographer came, I was elated!

When my little boy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I thought, “Will my already budding athlete still be able to compete?”

It was one of the questions I asked before he was discharged from the hospital. You see, my son had already had a few seasons of pee-wee soccer, basketball and baseball under his belt. When the doctor told us that sports was a good way to help manage his diabetes we were all relieved.

Until he was in the fourth grade he wasn’t affected much with his sporting activities. My husband took an active role in volunteering to coach when given the opportunity and back then practices were open to parents. That year, my son was eligible to play in our local Junior Football League. That was the first time we were faced with the situation where my husband wasn’t a coach and we needed to educate the coaching staff of basic diabetes first aid.

We met with the coaches the first day of practice to explain our son’s diagnosis and what it would mean for him as a member of the team:

  • He MIGHT have to sit out if his blood sugar dropped too low.
  • How to operate a glucagon kit, or emergency kit in case of hypoglycemic episodes
  • Signs of a low blood sugar – dizziness, being combative, slurring of words
  • Steps he should take if a low blood sugar occurred
  • That he was no different than any other player on the field and should be treated equally

My husband and I had this discussion with every coach that ever coached my son. Over the years we had the discussion with at least two dozen coaches and athletic trainers. We discovered that talking with them before the season started put their mind at ease as much as it did ours.

As he grew, we learned that although regular exercise is good for a child with diabetes, different sports can cause different trends in blood glucose. During my son’s football career, we discovered that during practice or a game his blood sugars would spike due to the added adrenaline running through his body. This is due to the short bursts of energy being dispensed. The non-stop action of basketball would cause his blood sugars to plummet. He never went to practice without glucose tablets and a Gatorade. The leisurely pace of baseball kept his blood sugars on an even level for the most part, but with practice being after school we did find that he would still need a snack to keep his blood sugar from dropping toward the end of practice.



As a parent, I would always do my best to keep him prepared and be prepared myself with insulin, supplies, snacks and/or glucose tablets, however there have been times that a quick trip to the concession stand was needed. With all of that preparation there have still been times when his game was affected. We were once at a basketball game over an hour away from home. My son’s insulin pump failed right before the game and we didn’t have any insulin with us. We allowed him to start the game since the trends we’d seen in the past were of his blood sugars going down. As the game went on his blood sugar kept getting higher and higher. We had to do what was best for his health, which was take him out of the game and get him home as quickly as possible. It was a hard lesson for him and us to learn. That was the last time we were caught in a situation like that.



My son was a three-sport-athlete from kindergarten through senior year of high school. Even after he was diagnosed as a person living with Type 1 he never thought for a second about giving up those sports. He learned to deal with highs and lows and keep going and didn’t give up on himself or his team. He performed his best and relied on his team when needed, especially when he broke his arm, sprained his neck, and broke his shoulder. His senior year he was the captain of the basketball team, was recognized as a scholar athlete by our conference and received the Army Scholar Athlete Award by our local Armory.

My son has learned since the young age of seven that when you come upon a barrier in life you don’t let it deter you from what you want to do. In my next blog, I’ll talk about the time when he realized that having Type 1 diabetes could actually stop him from doing things in life.

Are you parenting a child with a medical condition? What do you not leave home without? Tell us in the comments.

Presented by: Tamara Martin

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