Type 1 Diabetes, the Continual Glucose Monitor, and your Child Athlete

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • For the most part, kids with Type 1 and their families are aware of how sports and exercise can help reduce blood glucose levels, often over an extended period of time. Yet with this great benefit of exercise and managing diabetes must come a few nasty downsides, like plummeting blood sugars while playing a game or exercising. Even more frustrating are episodes of hypoglycemia that occur hours after exercising, which become downright scary if they occur during the middle of the night.

    Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) can be the technology that can best help minimize the challenges of such episodes of hypoglycemia. CGMs, similar in size to an insulin pump, are medical devices which were first approved by the FDA starting in 2006. CGMs can offer real-time readings on levels of blood glucose and can help those managing Type 1 to determine if their BG is going up or down. The use of a CGM has been approved for use in addition to the more traditional finger-stick-with-the-test-strips method currently used.

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    Gary Scheiner, a CDE who manages Type 1 and Founder of Integrated Diabetes Services, says that "CGM can be a tremendous asset to young athletes, coaches and parents."

    Scheiner goes on to explain that the value of CGM is that there is now context to an athlete's BG reading, which means someone with a CGM can "know where you are, and where you are likely headed," which can lead to smarter choices. This is because a CGM, with its sensor inserted just below the skin on the abdomen, arm or buttocks, measures and graphs blood glucose levels every couple of minutes for days at a time. These readings, when viewed in conjunction with data on levels and intensity of exercise, nutrition and medication, can lead to much more robust and insighful analysis.  In the past, and specifically with the traditional finger-stick methods, the value was often out of context.

    According to Scheiner, "delayed drops in blood sugar are a parents' nightmare, particularly when they occur at night." These delayed drops can be fairly common after lots of exercise and training. Some CGMs have predictive capabilities and can help the child and his family manage these drops by alerting them before a low actually occurs. 

    Scheiner, who wrote the book Think Like A Pancreas, is currently working on its second edition, and says the CGM has been the biggest change to diabetes management and sports since the first edition was published in 2004. 

    Ryan de Groff, an athlete who manages Type 1 and who was a panelist on this past year's CWD's Sports Central, attests to the fact that his CGM has significantly helped him with his insulin dosing, particularly while playing sports.

    Thinking too beyond great benefit of CGMs better predicting and managing hypoglycemic episodes are the long term benefit of better control from smarter decision which can lead in fewer or less sever complications.

    Additional Resources
    The market for CGMs is nascent, with only a few monitors approved by the FDA and available today, but it is expected that this market place will become more crowded in the future. The attached online chart is place to start with regarding comparing various CGMs available. Additional, general background reading can be found at dlife, JDRF, and WebMD.

Published On: September 26, 2010