Diabetes Management & Practice: Blood Sugar Control as Basketball Scoreboard

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • "What Would Brian Boitano do?"

    (songwriters: Parker Trey, Shainan, Marc.)


    What would Brian Boitano do

    if he were here right now?

    He'd make a plan and he'd follow through.

    That's what Brian Boitano do!!


    (A disclaimer: I do not watch South Park; but I do watch figure skating and ESPN.)


    I could not help but think compassionately of Austin Freeman after the ESPN report confirmed my suspected diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. And, quite inexplicably, the song above came to mind. I was thinking, "what should Austin Freeman do," now that his basketball season has come to an end. There is no more cheering for three pointers and goal shots or a college championship. There is no more vast media attention directed towards his struggles with diabetes and how to perform under pressure with meticulous blood sugar control. And, most importantly, there is no further presence of his physician on the sidelines. His celebrity as a basketball player is in the background and now the diabetes management is up to him. He has reportedly reached out to Adam Morrison, another basketball player with type 1 diabetes, and has yet to hear from him. Austin is now realizing, as do all persons with type 1 diabetes, that management is a 24-hour/day operation that requires the same dedication and in a sense, skill sets, necessary to become an elite college basketball player.

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    So, what should Austin Freeman do? He needs to make a plan and follow through. I would suggest approaching diabetes management in a way that would match his mindset: a continuous life long basketball game until it is finally won with a cure discovered by our research colleagues. However, until the game is over and the celebrations begin, much work and practice is required. Indeed, the same determination and practice hours can be applied to Austin's diabetes management. Preparation in key! I am sure Austin has a routine for days he plays and off days. Likewise, he will need to develop a diabetes routine: the typical self-care skills required by all persons with diabetes and persevere to reach his goals. The goals however are not measured by points, rather by blood sugar control in association with hb A1c and minimization of fluctuations. Austin has the ability to reach his goals in the same way he became a revered collegiate basketball player-through practice, practice, and even more practice. I am certain that he was educated by a dedicated diabetes team at Georgetown and now has assumed some independence in terms of management. It also will be important to take the varying degrees of exercise into consideration while he is studying for exams and not actively playing basketball. It may be an excellent idea for Austin to continue reaching out to Adam Morrison to compare notes and learn the most effective strategies for type 1 diabetes control in basketball players.


    Austin also needs to check out the different insulin regimes available to him including multiple daily injections and the insulin pump and to receive the necessary education for daily adjustments. He should keep an open mind and continue to learn what works for him.


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    Lastly, Austin, with his celebrity, has the power to help others with type 1 diabetes in terms of advocacy. Coping with diabetes may take many forms based on our experience with families and persons with diabetes. Austin should consider working with youngsters and adolescents with diabetes as a potential role model. The opportunity for providing positive life choices as they relate to type 1 diabetes is enormous should Austin wish to serve both his local and global community. The teachable moments are now while he remains in the sports media.


    On the other hand, it is clear that some sports figures do not want to become role models due to the great responsibilities inherent upon assuming the role. Thus, I am hopeful that Adam will choose advocacy as a coping mechanism to manage his diabetes medically and psychologically.


    So, what should Austin Freeman do? He should make a plan and follow through....first by caring for himself as best as possible and then perhaps assuming the role of an advocate and demonstrating that diabetes does not limit or define him in his role as an elite collegiate athlete.


Published On: June 02, 2010