Standout Ball Player Battles More than Opposing Teams

Exercise is an important part of managing diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2. But it's also something that can present unique challenges.

Seaman High School junior Bryce Simons proves those challenges don't have to keep you out of the game. He fell in love with basektball as a child, and ever since he stepped on the court, he hasn't stepped off - even when a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes could have benched him for good.

Bryce remembers it. He was 6-years old, the summer before he was to start first grade. He got sick and wasn't getting better, so his mother took him the hospital, where they got the diagnosis. It started a routine of checking blood sugar and getting shots.

Bryce says he didn't understand it then, but now, it's part of his routine. With the workout the he puts himself through as a standout basketball player for the Vikings, it's one he doesn't take lightly. He says he checks his blood sugar levels two or three times before practice and again during breaks. A kit with testing supplies and insulin, juice and gum should his blood sugar need a boost is never far away, whether it's practice or a game.

Game time can get a bit tricky. Bryce says the adrenaline rush can make his blood sugar go up, so he'll have to take shots. During the game, levels may fluctuate depending on exertion versus adrenaline.

As long as he pays attention, Cotton-O'Neil diabetes educator Kelli Bradbury, ARNP, says there's no reason Bryce or anyone else with diabetes needs to stay on the sidelines. She says, in general, diabetic patients aren't any different than any other athlete or any other person walking down the street.

Bradbury says exercise is often a first line of treatment for diabetes. It can lower blood sugars and, for Type 2 diabetics who are insulin resistant, make their body use insulin more efficiently. Listening to their bodies during exercise will be their best defense against the activity causing blood sugar levels to drop too low, causing problems. Bradbury says symptoms that is happening would be feeling nervous, jittery, shaky, weak, or even thirsty.

Bradbury says people with diabetes are often fearful of starting an exercise program, due to the potential for blood sugar drops, but she says doctors can work with patients to adjust medications or meals based on when they might exercise.

Bryce and his coach, Larry Lattimer work it out. Bryce lets him know when he needs to come out, and that bag of supplies has a permanent spot behind the bench. Lattimer says the biggest factor is communicating with Bryce, so the coaches know how he feels.

Watching Bryce flourish - he averages 15 points a game, Lattimer says, is an example not just for people with diabetes, but everyone on the team. Lattimer says Bryce refuses to use his disease as a crutch - he deals with it and goes on. Lattimer calls Bryce one of the most competitive players he's coached.

That competitive spirit is helping Bryce win the battle against the opponent he lives with every day - one he says is now a normal part of his life.

"I'll just keep playing see what happens," Bryce says. "Maybe they'll find a cure someday, but I don't mind diabetes one bit."

Bryce does have an insulin pump that he says makes staying regulated on an everyday basis a lot easier, but he doesn't wear it when he plays. He agrees with Bradbury that communicating with doctors and family is key to controlling diabetes.