Diabetics can do anything?

I keep on seeing this cliche whenever the media reports on diabetes and sport, and it is basically true for young people. Yet despite years of searching, I have been unable to find other T1s my age who are capable of doing the stuff I do. Like skiing races in the World Loppet series or big days of back country skiing, like bouldering at more than beginner standard, like leading rock climbs, like inline speed skating and unicycling. Most former diabetes sports heroes have gone way downhill in later life.
Yes, older diabetics can do anything, as long as its running, cycling or swimming, or anything else that does not require a high degree of neural and soft tissue function.
I was not athletic as a teenager. I couldn’t even make the school team in my favourite event. Yet after decades of rejecting the dogma of the diabetes community and the medical profession, I do much better.

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Bobby Clarke is still looking good at 69.

NHL Hockey player - diagnosed at 12 (about 57 years ago)

In 2017, he “Played in the Flyers’ 50th anniversary alumni game against the alumni of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he combined with his longtime linemates, Bill Barber and Reggie Leach, which ended in a 3–3 tie before a sold out crowd of over 19,000.” (Wikipedia)

Which is when he was 68 years old and had diabetes for about 56 years :slight_smile:


Thanks Aaron. Yes, there are individuals who were champions when they were young (I wasn’t even considered an athlete, yet alone a good one) and succeed at a specific skill into older age.
And what lessons did the diabetes community learn from Bobby Clarke? Be a sports star when you are young? How was his diet parametrized, so that others could learn from it? How was his training parametrized? What other aspects of his management does he have in common with other diabetic masters athletes?
Or does the diabetes community just assume that it is managing in the same way as Bobby, and blame their lack of success on genetics?

That is a good point - there is not a lot of guidance out there. If you read up on Bobby Clarke, at the time, people assumed because you had diabetes, that you would not be able to perform at all. His battle was to convince the coaches/teams/doctors that he could actually be a competitive athlete.

I was diagnosed int he mid 80’s. I am probably one of the last generation of people who were told by the doctors at diagnoses all the things you couldn’t be or couldn’t do with diabetes and how when you were old you would be riddled with complications and loose your legs. etc. So at that time, you were told that you would be doomed to a short life.

My son was diagnosed 1.5 year ago, and I heard none of that negative talk that I heard on diagnosis which was quite welcoming. It was more of the people with diabetes can do anything message.

With that said, I am not an athlete, but I do cycle and hike (up mountains) and downhill ski. No competitive cross country skiing for me yet and I am a clumsy boulderer :slight_smile:

20 to 25 years ago when I was young and starting to do sports at a higher level, I was never able to get any help from endo’s or diabetes educators on how to handle things when it came to training or even food/insulin choices when being active.

It is only now that I have been learning from people on the internet that I am able to do a better job managing BG’s during exercise but I agree - there is a lack of information on how to take your body to the next level with diabetes.

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You do bring up a good point @NickM, with all of the type 1 athletes out there i.e. Jay Cutler, Mike Echols, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, Gary Forbes, Scott Verplank, etc. you would think there would be some additional information out there on how to manage diabetes for peak performance.

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Given the small portion of the population that has type 1 diabetes, and the unknown portion, but certainly less than 100% of top level competitors in virtually all fields who do make it publicly known that they have type 1 diabetes… it’s hard for me to imagine there’s an imminent and unavoidable disconnect between t1 and athletic performance

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Um, I do believe that that is unfortunately still happening today with some practitioners. Getting excellent advice at the endo office is really difficult for many sporty people it seems.

Also, I am not really sporty. And I don’t know all the famous people who you’re talking about. And I should probably just butt out, and not have an opinion on this.

However, my guess is that there are very few people doing “the types of things that (you) are doing” in general, T1 or not.

Maybe you’ve chosen such niche sports that it’s hard to find other T1 success stories? Correct me if I’m wrong…it just seems like a curious question. You sounds like you know how to have a great time outdoors though! :smile: :sun_behind_rain_cloud:


I know Gary Scheiner does a lot with diabetes and athletes, in his books and individual consulting services, Integrated Diabetes.


What a burden…

What a relief. :slight_smile:

But you confused me with this:

So then an athlete… :thinking:

I hope participation, rather than performance, is how we define whether or not we’re athletes… I hope at least. Or I’m in trouble. :smiley:


I’m sure you’ve stated, but do you mind my asking your age?

I was very athletic… just not diabetic. As an athlete, I can brag a little as I was a starting freshman on all of my varsity teams. Had I been diabetic, I probably would’ve killed myself. :smiley:

I’m being a little selfish here in trying to figure out where I line up in your theory about how diabetic athletes… or athletic diabetics (??) don’t fare well later in life. Maybe you can clarify why you think this is true as well as what you think you’ve done that’s helped you avoid the trap??

If you run, you are a runner. If you swim, you are a swimmer. There is no requirement for level of performance. :wink:


Wow, I didn’t realize how much I was hoping you weren’t going to argue that point.

So for self-titles, I’m claiming runner, dancer, and just baller, which is as much a status quo as a sport. Also, shot-caller. They go together.


Nick, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I’m sure there are lots of both diabetics and non-diabetics who blame their lack of athletic success on genetics…but I don’t understand the relevance to anyone other than those totally wrapped up in competitive athletics. I realized in my teens that I was not built like some of my peers (OK that’s genetics) but that does not cause me today at age 61 to “blame” my lifetime athletic performance (or non performance in some sports) on anything. Maybe I’m weird but I never got around to blaming my non-elite athletic status on anything, it never crossed my mind.

I compete for the fun of competing and as a social thing with my peers and get my rewards that way. Of course I want to win but if I don’t there is no blaming of my genetics or diabetes or anything, although there might be some soul searching of my effort, training, general fitness level, etc. I assume many people are wired like me but to be honest I don’t really know.


I attended a JDRF T1D Summit a few years ago. One of the speakers was a T1D Ironman competitor. It had to have been the least inspirational speech that I’ve ever heard. The message was, “I’m T1D. I didn’t tell anyone I’m T1D. It’s all on me to control my bg during events. If anything happens to me while competing, it’s on me to fix it bc I am the only one responsible for me and no one else knows about it.”

There was no discussion of his strategies, what he’s learned to be at peak performance, nothing. The message was, “I hide my diabetes. Figure yours out on your own.”

That room was dead silent. I don’t even think there was applause at the end.

That’s why I LOVE FUD. People share. People cheer. People strategize together.

So, anyway, this guy was an example of an elite diabetic athlete, and he pretty much acted like he’s not diabetic and didn’t want to talk about it. It was very off-putting.


Do you remember his name?

Actually… good point. I am inspired now. Thanks @Nickyghaleb

Now I get to rant about high school physical education…

IMHO the only way to improve athletic performance is to slowly build up your muscles and cardio. That means you need practice and encouragement.

But… high school gym class was basically only looking at your current fitness or performance and shaming you for your lack of performance instead of encouraging or teaching better performance. I think part of this is the competitive nature of boys and part was the teachers who had the same mindset as the boys. So instead of shaming for taking more than 8 minutes for running a mile, maybe teaching that if you stick to it and train you can slowly bring your times down and that you are not an athlete because you can’t run a sub-eight minute mile. :rage:

…but I digress.


Okay, it’s official. We’re soulmates, @Nickyghaleb. My husband has been making fun of me for the last month since “baller” has become my adjective of choice lately. I’m bringing it back. I don’t care what anyone says.


Is this what a baller does?



This is also, coincidentally, what lead me to start a revolt on my high school softball team. Our coaches played college softball in Florida (i.e. they were really intense and talented) and they wanted to emulate that at our school. We had one qualified fast pitch softball pitcher in our school. One. Obviously she was the varsity team’s pitcher and they did well enough. But for those of us on JV…with no qualified pitcher…playing really good teams with deep benches…it was tough. And the coaches’ solution was to have us run a million laps after we lost each game, which was all of them. The day after I got voted captain of the JV team, I quit. Then a bunch of other girls quit. Then they had to combine the JV and freshman teams into one team since they lost so many players. It was a little awkward since my coach was my English teacher. Oh well, I tried to speak up for us and just got in trouble so I quit with my parents’ blessing.

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An interesting observation. Last week, I discussed something similar with a father of two high school senior boy football players (very competitive, fairly talented) and a sophomore girl cross country runner (new to running, not naturally talented at running). He said the boys think, “first place or nothing”, and his daughter says, “hey, I ran a PR today…I love running!” (She is somewhere in the lower 1/2 of the competitors, I’d guess).

I’ve come to see the wisdom of inculcating a spirit of trying hard at whatever you do, despite of natural gifts (or genetics)…the pursuit of improvement, however small, and however significant to those in another camp of talent. Now, how is that incorporated into gym class (or other areas)? I’m afraid a lot rests on the temperament of the coach (and parents).