Right or wrong, many child and adolescent diabetics may be overprotected by adults and treated differently by their peers when it comes to physical activity. But with proper precautions, diabetics can and should participate in sports, according to a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center pediatrician and researcher.
"Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes has been a treatable disease since 1922," said Dr. Piers Blackett, assistant professor at the Oklahoma City campus. "Shortly after that, it became clear we had to pay attention to other things, such as psychological aspects and coping strategies.
"Participation in sports can enhance self-image, provide a sense of accomplishment and lead to social interactions that are necessary for healthy emotional development."
Well-known diabetic athletes such a Ty Cobb and Catfish Hunter were not content to be spectators, and neither should most diabetic children, Blackett said. Even Oklahoma marathon runner Gene Horton is diabetic, yet performs optimally with careful control of the disease.
Blackett offered some guidelines:
- Ideally, diabetic children shouldn't be involved in sports before they can master certain diabetes management techniques.
Type I diabetes is diagnosed mainly in late childhood or early adolescense, but some children are diagnosed as early as the first year of life. A child generally is around age 9 before he or she can administer insulin injections - an important facator in controlling diabetes. Therefore, serious participation in sports might best be postponed until then, Blackett said.
- For optimal performance, exercise should be scheduled following a meal and a dose of insulin.
"Fine-tuning with insulin and the correct amount of calories can manage the disease best," he said. "Many times, it take trial and error to determine the ideal schedule."
If exercise occurs before the morning insulin dose and before breakfast, the insulin deficience and hyperglycemia could lead to ketoacidosis. The diabetic's blood sugar …