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Pitching A Winning Game Against Diabetes

Pitching A Winning Game Against Diabetes | The LOOP Blog

(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Independent Sports News)

Recent high school graduate, Jonathan Buckley, thought his dream of being a pitcher was threatened when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. Managing diabetes while playing sports is no easy task for a teenager whose body is going through typical growth changes, but Jonathan kept his eye on the game, looking up to those players who not only made it to the major leagues, but are also living with diabetes just like him. It’s inspiring to see how far Jonathan has come in the six years after his diagnosis.

Q. How may have your diagnosis impacted your baseball dreams?

A. Originally, I thought having type 1 diabetes and playing sports would not mesh well. While I was in the hospital, my parents and I met with specialists and a nutritionist to educate us about type 1 diabetes, including checking blood glucose levels regularly, how to count carbs, giving myself insulin shots, and eating in moderation. I was on information overload and didn’t know what to think. I remember asking Dr. P if I could continue playing baseball and he was very comforting and said I could do everything I had done before being diagnosed. One of the specialists at the hospital recommended a type 1 diabetes support group. My parents and I attended weekly meetings where I met other teenagers that also had type 1 diabetes. Once I started attending the support group meetings and rejoined my team at baseball practice and games, I soon realized it’s almost the same as playing without diabetes.

Q. You’ve been playing baseball for many years. How has your diabetes management evolved during that time?

A. Over the years, I have learned to eat foods with protein before games and to limit foods high in carbohydrates. Not everyone responds equally to the same foods. Guidelines and recommendations are available, but I had to figure out which foods worked best for me. Some days are better than others, but finding which foods to eat has made managing my diabetes during games much easier.

Having type 1diabetes as a teenager can be rough, especially when playing sports. My doctor told me when I was first diagnosed my blood sugar levels over the next five years would probably fluctuate because of adolescent changes to my body, along with playing sports. Every three months, I went to the lab for my A1C tests and my doctor would constantly make adjustments to my insulin dosage. Six months after being diagnosed, I was approved for an insulin pump, which helped in managing my blood sugar levels, but I still had too many highs and lows because of adolescent changes to my body. I am 18 now and I have noticed that it has become a lot easier to manage my diabetes as I come to the end of my adolescent years. With the help of my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM), I am able to monitor my blood sugar and easily make adjustments to help maintain my level.

Q. What does your diabetes routine for practices and games look like (before, during, after)? Is it different from a normal day without a game or practice?

A. Game and rest days are usually about the same for me. The only difference is that I do not wear my insulin pump for the full length of the game when I am pitching. I know other baseball players with diabetes who wear their pump throughout the entire game, and others who disconnect for the entire game. For me, taking mine off while I’m on the mound and putting it back on every time I come back to the dugout works best. I check my glucose in between innings and make adjustments if needed.

Q. What do you find most helpful in managing your diabetes while playing?

A. The thing that I find most helpful while playing baseball is wearing my pump in the dugout. I used to not wear my pump and sometimes after games, I would feel sick, even if my blood sugar was not high. Now that I’ve made the adjustment to wear my pump in the dugout, it has made managing by blood sugar level much easier during games when I’m pitching.

Q. How does using an insulin pump play a role in managing your diabetes while playing ball? How do you wear it while playing?

A. Using an insulin pump plays a very important role in managing my diabetes. The features available on the pump allow me to consistently manage the amount of insulin I receive to help maintain my blood sugar level throughout the day. As I mentioned previously, I take my insulin pump off while on the mound and reconnect it while in the dugout. Over the years, I’ve found it much easier to remove my insulin pump when I’m pitching because I don’t have to worry about having my pump in my pocket or the slight chance of it getting damaged.

Q. What’s the most surprising thing you learned about type 1 diabetes through playing?

A. The most surprising thing I learned about playing with diabetes is to never give up. We are all faced with challenges in our lives. It’s those same challenges that define us and make us who we are. Diabetes has made me mentally strong to face challenges both on and off the field.

Q. How has diabetes changed your life outside of the baseball field?

A. Diabetes has changed my life outside of baseball in a very positive way. It’s helped me realize at an early age that we should never take our health for granted. It also taught me the importance of facing life’s challenges and not to make excuses. I’ve never complained about being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I’ve never used it as an excuse when I did not perform at my best on and off the field.

Q. One of your friends on the team was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. How did you offer him support?

A. The advice I gave my friend about diabetes was mostly some of the foods I can and can’t eat, but more importantly, that he can live a perfectly normal life with diabetes, as long as he manages his blood sugar level correctly and has regular checkups with his doctor.

Q. What advice do you have for other athletes or those interested in playing sports as far as achieving their dreams despite living with type 1 diabetes?

A. Stay positive and don’t let the condition we have in common keep you from reaching your goals. We are faced with daily challenges managing our condition, but it is important to remember that diabetes is a controllable disease. Maintaining a proper diet, checking blood sugar levels regularly, exercise and hard work, and regular checkups with your doctor all play a part in helping to be successful in your sport of choice. I have been able to do anything and everything the rest of my friends do, and diabetes has not slowed me down at all. As long as you take care of it and manage it correctly, it will be almost as if you don’t even have diabetes.


– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.

– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps

– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.

– Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems

– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.

– Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

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