Welcome to Stay in the Game, a monthly blog where the team from The Queen's Health Systems share the latest tips on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. We want to help you play hard and be well - a winning combination that will keep you in the game all season long.

Diabetes in athletes

Diabetes can appear to be a very debilitating condition for an athlete, but it does not need to be! Learn more from Alan Parsa, MD, Medical Director of the Diabetes Program at The Queen's Medical Center – West O'ahu.

Here, I'd like to give you some answers to basic questions about diabetes to help you feel more comfortable playing sports with diabetes or coaching/training someone with diabetes.

Before we start, please remember that while I hope to answer some of your questions, you should always discuss with your doctor to find out your specific risks. Also, if you have diabetes, be sure to let your coach and athletic trainer know. The more people who know you have diabetes, the more people there are to help if you need it.

What type of diabetes do you have?

Type 1 diabetes: This type means that the body does not make any insulin on its own and insulin is needed for survival.

Type 2 diabetes: The body makes its own insulin, but may not be enough to keep sugars in safe levels. Typically, type 2 diabetes is treated with pills, but sometimes insulin is needed.

If you are not sure which type of diabetes you have or if you are on insulin, your doctor can help.

Why is this important to know for athletes?

An athlete should know what range of sugars is considered to be safe for them to play sports. This can be known as the "safe zone." Discuss with your doctor to find out what is your "safe zone." Certain medications can lead to excessively high or excessively low sugars taking you out of the "safe zone." Are you on one of these?

Some symptoms of low blood sugars include:

• Headache
• Confusion
• Dizziness
• Sweating
• Physical weakness, shaking
• Passing out

High sugars (hyperglycemia) may also lead to complications especially in type 1 diabetics with something called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a very serious condition and you should ask your doctor if you are at risk.

Symptoms of high blood sugars (hyperglycemia) are:

• Frequent urination
• Constantly thirsty
• Dry mouth
• Nausea and vomiting
• Difficulty/labored breathing
• Confusion or unconsciousness

How can these things be prevented?

• Consult your physician to help determine your risks before participating in a sport
• If recommended, have a glucose meter at practices and games to monitor sugars when needed
• Know your "safe zone" and what to do if you are not in that zone


Before participating in physical activities, ask your doctor what your risks are and what precautions should be taken. Know your "safe zone," and let your coach or athletic trainer know what your doctor recommends you to do when outside of this "safe zone." Then, go have a blast!

Lastly, know that you are not the only diabetic out there being active. There are many professional and Olympic diabetic athletes who are on the top of their game! Diabetes is a manageable condition and should not prevent you from excelling at something you love doing!

The After Hours Center at The Queen's Medical Center – West Oʻahu provides Central and West Oʻahu families with easy access to care for minor injuries and illnesses. The center is open daily and treats adults' and children's health conditions after their doctor's regular business hours. It's a convenient alternative to going to the Emergency Department for minor illnesses and injuries. Simply walk in, or call 808-691-3115 for more information.




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