Soccer and Diabetes- The story of Alan Berkeley

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Alan Berkeley roams the soccer field like a painter coordinates colorful strokes on a masterpiece, as if he were practicing bicycle kicks and touch passes since the womb. Alan wasn’t always coordinated on the soccer field, especially when he first became diagnosed with diabetes.

In unwrapping his diagnosis story, Alan’s memory is imprinted by just feeling crummy and weak. “I didn’t know I was going to feel better”, Alan remembers. But after a couple of weeks and with his BG’s stabilizing, Alan not only felt better, he began to get back on the field. In the diabetes world, Alan has evolved through trial, error and practice, practice, practice.

Alan accredits his diabetes skills to his mom’s introduction of an idea. His Mom’s idea is that you might play better and feel better during and after games if your BG is in target range. With this thought, Alan started to notice a difference in his play when his BG’s were out of whack, especially when he was low.  His regime for practice includes checking right before, check middle and check after. Asked what’s the best thing to eat if you need a slight BG bump before sports, Alan quickly answers, “Bananas, they usually last throughout the whole practice and they don’t spike my blood sugar.”

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With his pump, Alan uses the temporary basal setting, where you can change your basal rate of insulin by a percentage to adjust for the glucose used in the energy output of playing sports. Alan is adjusting his insulin level to reduce his biggest obstacle playing sports, hypoglycemia (low bg). Alan furthers describes his view saying,

“With lows I just cannot perform at the same level. I would sub myself out of games when I felt a low coming on and at first my coach was upset because he thought I was kind of quitting, but then I told him hey sometimes I just need to check, take in carbs, recheck and then I can go back out there. Now my coach gets it and has less anxiety when I come out because he knows I will be ready to go back in as soon as my bg’s are up.” The coach’s anxiety also stems from losing the team’s best player!

In reflecting, Alan gives us some great advice to newly diagnosed families,

“My parents were nervous about me playing sports, for sure, but after we figured out how to address the lows it got easier and they got less stressed. Now I don’t think they are worried at all. For new parents, I would make sure they and the athlete know how to deal with lows in general before they play sports.”

Alan adds later, that planning ahead for highs and lows, communicating before practice and just playing as much as possible, as additional guidelines for sports and diabetes. With teammates, Alan’s relationship with diabetes is casual. His teammates know he has diabetes and what his lows look like. With BG checks, Alan’s teammates just think it’s something that the mighty Alan just has to do.

It was a pleasure to have Alan at our DASH Camp and we cannot wait to work with him more and help aid his development as an elite athlete and healthy person who also happens to DASH with diabetes.

Stay tuned for the next blog on Diabetes in Bali. We are taking a brief break from Athletes and then coming back in the 2nd week of November with an interview of former Pittsburg Steelers linebacker and T1D, Kendall Simons.

Thanks for the love,

The DASH Team

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