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From Wayne, Michigan, USA:

I have a friend that is 15 years old and has type 1 diabetes; he's had it for about a year and a half. He wants to play basketball on a team but won't admit it. I think he can't play physically because of his diabetes. It really bothers him. Is there any way possible that he could play basketball, and it still be alright physically?


First of all, thanks for writing in. Your friend must be pretty special for you to care so much about him. Being a supportive friend for an individual who has diabetes is extremely important.

The problem in diabetes is that the body loses its ability to store carbohydrate, protein and fat. This is because insulin is either missing or insufficient. Insulin is a storage hormone. It allows fuels ( mostly glucose from food) to enter the body's cells to be used as energy or stored. The key feature of diabetes is blood glucose levels that are higher than normal. In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas stops making insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must get their insulin from insulin injections. If no insulin or not enough insulin is available in the body, the levels of glucose in the blood is high (hyperglycemia), and the body is forced to breakdown excess amounts of stored fat for energy.

If your friend wants to play sports or be physically active, he should! Exercise is beneficial to the health of people with and without diabetes. For the individual with diabetes: It can take some of the glucose out of the blood to use for energy during and after exercise, which lowers blood glucose levels, and it helps delay or stop large blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease). All people with diabetes should exercise to counteract their increased risk for cardiovascular disease, to reach and stay at a healthy weight and to enjoy themselves. In addition exercise can help people with diabetes achieve good healthy lifestyle habits and can help them achieve good blood glucose control. Exercise also improves self-image, increases ability to do work, enhances your sense of well-being, enriches your life, and adds quality to your life.

Diabetes should not be an excuse to avoid physical activity or exercise. Your friend should exercise to improve overall fitness. Encourage your friend to get involved in both recreational and competitive sports. He should allow himself to do any activity that is reasonable for him -- from a leisurely bike ride to playing basketball.

It is also important for your friend to exercise safely: Here are some general guidelines for exercising safely with diabetes: Always check your blood glucose before and after exercise. If it is your first time engaging in a particular activity (e.g.. swimming laps, or playing basketball) check your blood glucose 30 minutes into the activity to see how your body is reacting to the activity.

  1. If blood glucose is less than or equal to 100 mg/dl before exercise, eat a pre-exercise snack.

  2. If blood glucose is over 100 mg/dl to 250 mg/dl before exercise, go ahead and exercise.

  3. If blood glucose is over 250 mg/dl before exercise, check for ketones. If ketones are present, do not exercise. Exercise can worsen blood glucose control.

  4. If blood glucose is over 300 mg/dl before exercise, do not exercise. You are not in good control of your blood glucose

You may want to encourage your friend to sit down with his doctor or diabetes education team and discuss his concerns with them. The doctor and team are there to be supportive, just as you are.


Original posting 14 Nov 1998
Posted to Exercise and Sports


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:02
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