Monday, October 18, 2010
You may not watch football or even know who this NFL quarterback is, but what's a necessary piece of information for this particular story is that Jay is a Type 1 diabetic. The 27-year old from Indiana has been playing pro football since 2006 and in early 2008 he announced his Type 1 diagnosis. Since he's been playing with Chicago, there's only been one time he's mentioned diabetes has interfered, but he treated that Low without much issue.
Most recently, Jay took a beating in the Oct. 3 game against the New York Giants with a 17-3 loss that included nine sacks in the first half alone. He was making wrong moves. Holding on to the ball too long. Throwing wildly. Looking dazed and confused, at one taking a few steps toward the wrong side before realizing his mistake. Just before the half, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion that would then keep him out the next game.
That's when the commentary started, in the sports community as well as in the Diabetes Community. Someone linked to a post-game Chicago Sun-Times column in the Child With Diabetes Forums, saying that they were upset with how this particular columnist was questioning Cutler about his diabetes and whether that was to blame for the beating he took against the Giants.
Relevant to this post is the section of the column that states:
Did his diabetes have anything to do with it? That is a very personal question, but it is a valid one for this highly paid athlete. It is noble and courageous that Cutler plays pro football at all, let alone stars at the sport, with Type 1 diabetes, a disease that forces him to measure his blood-sugar and insulin levels constantly, even during games. To be slightly off on those levels can cause a diabetic to have blurred vision, reduced reaction time and slight loss of judgment. And who needs total awareness more than an NFL quarterback? We largely have forgotten about Cutler's battle with diabetes since he came to Chicago and was very open about his dealings with the late onset of the disease. But it is there. And one can't help but wonder whether the blows to his head, combined with the possible internal effects of diabetes, had anything to do with this horror show.
Now, some took offense with the very question of this being D-related. Others took issue with the notion that a Type 1 could be "slighty off" and that might cause blurred vision, reduced reaction-time, and slight loss of judgement. As parents, this was a form of misinformation about diabetes and it infuriated them and caused concern about what message this might send to the general public about what we People With Diabetes can and can't do.
Not everyone on the CWD forums or those column commenters were upset about question or tone, though some clearly did and voiced their frustrations online. Some resented the fact that this writer was blaming diabetes without actually knowing whether it played a part or not.
For the record, Jay spoke recently about that game, saying that it was not his Type 1 diabetes to blame - but rather the concussion that he sustained at some point. A story quotes him as "squashing speculation that the hits he took affected his blood sugar and therefore his decision-making. Cutler called those claims 'completely false and ridiculous.'"
So, there it is from him saying that the D is not and was not to blame. That while they symptoms demonstrated may have mirrored those of a Low BG, the behavior was the result of the concussion.
Personally, this column didn't bother me. I see it as a valid question that the general public might raise about any pro-athlete PWD. You can't change the fact that they have this condition, and that as a result Lows or Highs might throw off performance levels at times. We all face this in our daily D-Lives, from issues that come up at work or instances where we must change driving, exercise, or other plans because of where our blood sugars are at. There's no denying it. But we recognize and acknowledge and don't hide this fact.
So many of us are living examples of how any PWD can have a successful live despite being diabetic. Same goes for those like quarterback Jay Cutler, skiier Kris Freeman, swimmer Gary Hall, and mountain climber Will Cross - and so many many others who exemplify what is possible and that you can achieve your dreams even with diabetes. They've had D-issues while doing their respective sports before, and they've admitted and talked about that. But those occasional interferences haven't dampered the broader message and success stories each person embodies by just being there in the first place. I'd have the same rationale in describing anyone outside the pro sports arena who might hold a job, live a successfull life, and do whatever they might need to do well despite also living with diabetes. Though it's a big part of our lives, we are all more than just diabetes.
Growing up, I played baseball up through high school and then swam varsity for all four years of high school. While I had some instances where D did get in the way, it didn't limit me in how I played or how others viewed me as a teammate. Honestly, I only recall using my Type 1 a few times in my younger days as an "excuse" to get out of climbing a rope, doing pullups, or swimming a particularly grueling lap in the pool. Those times aren't something I reflect on proudly, though, but rather I see them as a learning experience - I had to feel what it was like to not participate, to be limited. That never became a habit, if for no other reason than to prevent it from becoming a reason for others to view me as "the diabetic kid" who might not be able to do something the same as everyone else. Sometimes, they - and we - must blame diabetes. It's unavoidable. But our own actions and those of the high-profile athletes like Jay Cutler demonstrate that we CAN do these things and might just succeed or screw up like anyone else has the ability to.
With that, I'll open it up to the DOC: What do you think about this? Have you ever had to blame diabetes while competing, or during your daily duties? Do you see this limiting in any way, and how would you think the general public might respond to that more regular-life situation where D may interfere?