Curious about successful athletes with diabetes? Getting a diabetes diagnosis might sound like the end of competitive sport, but for these athletes, their type 1 diabetes diagnosis did not slow their careers down.
In the past, this diagnosis had a grim outlook as the medical treatment we have now did not exist. However, with the modern medical advancements we have available now, people can lead normal lives (which includes competing in professional sports) while managing type 1 diabetes.
Anyone with diabetes must learn to balance their food intake, insulin intake, and physical activity. Athletes with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have their own unique task of balancing food, insulin, stress levels, extreme and strenuous physical exercise as well as sleep and recovery.
These 9 impressive athletes have all been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before or during their professional career and have gone on to lead amazing athletic careers. If there is one thing that the athletes have in common it’s their belief that diabetes cannot hold them back.
Hailing from White Rock, British Columbia Groenewegen is a right-handed softball pitcher. Now 25, Groenewegen was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age 9. A shining star of the Canada Women's National Softball Team since 2013, she helped lead the team to its first gold medal in 32 years.
Groenewegen says “If you set your mind to do anything, you can do anything you want. Having diabetes shouldn’t get in the way of your goals.”
Jarvis is a former Olympic rower who competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13, he is now the founder and organizer for the Canadian charity and T1D community “I Challenge Diabetes”.
His organization helps support and encourage type 1 diabetes youth to strive to live their lives to the fullest- which includes sport, adventure, and overcoming everyday challenges. He leads this organization alongside fellow type 1 diabetes rower Heather Van der Geest.
Anissa Gamble plays forward on the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association and played as a former member of the Toronto Furies. Diagnosed with diabetes at 8 years old, Gamble says managing diabetes and a professional athletic career is certainly a delicate balance.
With a background in pre-med biology and an organizer for diabetes organization Thumbs Up Diabetes, Gamble is certainly hoping to make a difference in the lives of those with type 1 diabetes.
Gamble mentions “As you continue to learn and grow, I view T1D as a positive adjective as it forces you to become independent and value the meaning of life.”
Currently playing a centerman on the Columbus Blue Jackets, Max Domi was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. His first response to this diagnosis was “Can I still play hockey?” Diabetes has never stopped Domi from having a full athletic career.
He wears a continuous glucose monitor that shows his blood sugar in real-time. He also works with a team of doctors to ensure he is safe and healthy while he pushes himself on and off the rink.
Domi says “I’m a Type 1 diabetic playing in the NHL for the Montreal Canadians, loving every second of it and that was my dream as a kid, so there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing.”
A passionate hockey player since he was 8 years old, Bobby Clarke is something of a hockey legend. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12, Clarke has gone on to inspire leagues of T1D athletes.
Back in 1967, the National Hockey League feared diabetes would keep Clarke from playing safely in the rink, but doctors confirmed as long as he took care of himself and managed his insulin, he would be just as capable as any other player. Clarke exceeded NHL expectations and went on to play a star-worthy 15-year long career that has inspired athletes with T1D everywhere.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during his National Football League career, Jay Cutler has dealt with his adaptation to life with T1D quite publicly. Cutler, 25 at the time, was diagnosed with T1D in 2008 while he was playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos and went on to play another 8 seasons. A great example of how T1D may be a game-changer, but it doesn’t have to be game over.
Former professional outfielder Sam Fuld played 8 seasons in Major League Baseball; he’s played for the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, and Minnesota Twins.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, Fuld went on to enjoy a great MLB career and champions a Diabetes Camp at the University of South Florida. Through this program, he inspires fellow T1D folk to advocate for their passions no matter their diagnosis. He also advocates for more coach education on T1D.
A now-retired professional golfer, Kelly Kuehne was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10 years old. Her diagnosis never stopped her from reaching her goals. With a solid foundation of a health care team and proper diabetes education diabetes doesn’t have to derail your life. Kelly says “There’s no reason being diabetic can stop you from doing what you want to do.”
In 2003, right before beginning his second season in the NFL, Kendall Simmons was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was not sure he could continue to play with this new challenge that faced him.
With the support of his health care team, and a tight knit support system, he went on to quickly adapt to his new normal. Kendall played 8 strong years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and went on to win the NFL Super Bowl XL.
If you have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, know that it is fully possible to adapt to this new challenge and thrive nonetheless.
If these 9 athletes with diabetes have taught us anything it’s there is no barrier to your success. Diabetes management begins with diabetes education, proper diet, and insulin management.
In Canada, those with type 1 diabetes may be eligible for a large tax refund from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) through the Disability Tax Credit Program. The Disability Tax Credit (DTC) allows Canadians who qualify to significantly reduce the taxes they pay and may qualify for retroactive reimbursement for every year they’ve lived with a qualifying impairment.
If you or someone you love is insulin-dependent, contact True North Disability Services for more information on the Disability Tax Credit today.