The Impact of Stigma on Identity Formation within a Diabetes Football Community… A Research Project

For the last 3 and a half years The Diabetes Football Community has been doing its best to be a leader of peer support for sporty people with Diabetes and those specifically with a passion for Football….. As we’ve seen growth, an increase in engagement and increase in awareness there has been widespread acceptance that there is a need for this group to come together, to provide help for a population of people who felt under-supported before TDFC arrived. However, a big question loomed for me from the off…. Why has it taken until now for this group of people to feel supported? And why has the community continued to develop?

In the pursuit of these answers I decided I needed to expand my knowledge and investigate the issue. So, just under 3 years ago I took the decision to study for a master’s degree in Socio Cultural Studies of Sport and Exercise. By choosing this particular path it allowed me to create my own research project which followed the degree’s subject, but in a field I was passionate about. This gave me the opportunity to search for the answers in the hope that I could glean insight which may help alter the narrative that people with type 1 Diabetes have been up against in Football throughout my entire life.

So, I’m really delighted to say that I’ve now completed my degree and am awaiting the final results. It’s been an incredible 3 year journey which has taught me a lot, but in this blog post I want to give a bit of background and discuss some of the reasons why I feel it’s a hugely important step for the community, as well as the concepts and findings which have been presented within the conclusions of the study.

The Why?…

I wanted to provide academic foundations for why this incredible community continues to grow, support and enhance the lives of those who are involved. Academic research remains at the forefront of change globally and I felt this was the right way to try to influence leaders across the globe, into considering how the narrative for Diabetes care should not be completely focussed upon medical enhancements and technology, in improving the lives of those with T1D.

The How?…

The research I conducted involved analysing some of the online content of blog posts, Facebook posts and tweets as well as interviewing several type 1 members of the community who had volunteered their time to support with the project. This allowed me to collect a substantial amount of data to analyse and compare with previously written academic literature.

What was found…

So, the really important bit…. What were the findings? What did the analysis show about our community and how stigma impacts on members of our Diabetes football Community living with Type 1.

Well… there’s plenty to choose from.

As most people would expect stigma towards Diabetes was shown again to impact the lives of those interviewed, whilst also driving the success of particular online content, as posts which were uplifting, dispelled stigma and provided education against it, were all highly viewed and extremely important to community.

I don’t think that would come to the surprise of many involved in TDFC, however the strong feelings of discontent surrounding type 2 related stigma imposed upon those living with type 1 was an area which I was a little surprised by. The feelings demonstrated were strong and it may have something to do with the particular field the study was focussed in, Football. With Football an unforgiving sport, where weakness is often exploited and ostracised you can potentially see why some of the participants felt strongly towards a stigma bestowed upon them which doesn’t actually represent what they live with. Yet, in their eyes it affects how they could go about their business on a Football pitch or Futsal court.

But it’s there on that very Football pitch or Futsal court where one of the most surprising findings from the study really comes to fruition…

As I’ve already mentioned, the show no weakness culture, masculinity and macho approach that’s embedded in Football really pushes players to hide anything that could be perceived as a weakness by fans, players, coaches or the media. This is why for example there’s not a single player in any professional Football league in England who has come out as gay for example… It’s a perceived weakness which goes against the image of masculinity and strength within the sport so therefore must be hidden. In all other parts of society that stigma is beginning to break but in Sport it still remains, and I believe that it forms the basis of why those in our community, who strongly identify themselves as a footballer, hide the fact they live with T1D. In using secrecy as a coping mechanism for avoiding stigma, academic research has demonstrated that this may increase the likelihood of poorer self-management and thus health outcomes. This is a highly significant finding because for the first time I’m suggesting, with support from the research, that the culture of the sport I’ve grown up with may have a detrimental impact on my health, as a result of the culture within Football, which depicts difference as weakness and ultimately attaches it with negative stigma.

So, with greater identification towards football, you’re more likely to hide your condition, and in hiding your condition you’re less likely to do the right things to self-manage it. With this academically evidenced throughout this study it’s a finding which really needs much more investigation to test its transferability. Nonetheless, when I consider my own experience as young person growing up with the condition, this finding resonates very closely to my experience. I love the sport I’ve played but I now question the impact that it’s had on my mental health, choices and behaviours.

However, there are also questions that stem from this which could really open the door for some interesting exploration. For example, is this just as a result of the Football culture, a team sport surrounded by mainstream players, traditionally with a working class – middle class background? Does it differ with other team sports such as Cricket or Rugby, where the tradition of the game may encourage a different culture and demographic background? Could we also consider a difference between Men’s Football and Women’s Football? Is there a cultural difference between the genders?

But then what about individual sports? Is this an issue which disappears or lessens in individual sports because there isn’t the need to hide from teammates, coaches, referees and opposition players what you need to go through to get out and play? Would we see a different view from a T1D Tennis player, Golfer, Badminton player, runner or cyclist etc?

Although the evidence of the study suggests a significant challenge for those with T1D accessing a sporting culture where weakness is shunned, I do think we’ve seen an opportunity in the findings to help alleviate some of that strain. It’s not all bad news!

This mechanic we’ve created through TDFC has helped to bridge the gap in identification for this population. Building identity with diabetes is important, it helps psychologically, socially and with the eventual medical outcomes for the condition. The research is out there evidencing this but in what we’ve created we’ve potentially helped people identify with T1D who otherwise may not have done. Those people have been so keen to keep it secret because of their life’s interests and passion in Football specifically, that actually by linking their passion to the condition we might have helped gain their attention enough to identify themselves with T1D, seek out others with their condition and ultimately receive help which betters their self-management.

Combining this with the use of Social Media as our prominent tool for communication actually increases this likelihood too. Through Social Media you can view content, see what people are up to and get support from posts without anyone else knowing you’re looking. This ability to temporarily and intermittently identify with T1D is something I would guess has happened a lot. In these moments the individual can see the benefits they may get from associating with the community, talking to others who share their passion within it and begin to develop their identity with the condition that in the long run, I certainly believe and so does the academic literature, will impact positively on self-management.

It’s no secret the positive impact that peer support has for people with T1D, this has been evidenced for years with strong support for it in this study too. However, if you have no inclination to seek out others, or no reason to identify with your condition because your favourite thing in life actively tells you not to, how on earth would you find it? You wouldn’t. So, this study really for the first time suggests we need to create a positive affiliation to draw people to their condition and break down some of the stigma for those who find it hard to identify with T1D. Without that, peer support is not able to cut through to those who may need it the most. It has a hugely significant impact on people who partake in this kind of support but why isn’t everyone doing it if that’s the case? I think this is an area and idea which may help to uncover some of that why….

Peer support is an incredible tool that buffers against stigma but another area that comes through strongly in the study is the idea that personal experiences in life and of stigma are a key driver in identification with T1D. I think for this population of people they are more likely to experience stigma as a result of their decision to put themselves in an environment where their condition is far from embraced, actually actively shunned. Only 2 weeks ago did I experience a pretty obvious stigma related slur, and in the last year I’ve experienced stigma on 3 different occasions all of which were related to Football/ Futsal. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

This population struggles to come to terms with their condition in the face of it. Which is why TDFC has grown, expanded and continues to do the good it does. Because it tackles and dispels stigma whilst providing a positive view of our condition, which for the first time in our lives is celebrated rather than shunned. THIS is why TDFC has been successful. I knew the reasons deep down but now I’ve taken the time to research it and understand it from a social and cultural perspective, I believe my view of our direction is far clearer for the future, whilst I really hope it can help to influence decision makers within Diabetes care to look at niche populations in greater detail, and more importantly on the impact of stigma on self-management. I’d like to appeal to the Diabetes academic community to really consider this area in the future…. The below link shows a recent poll I ran to get a feel for how it’s affecting behaviour/choices and I think the results speak for themselves:

https://twitter.com/chrisbrighty1/status/1295416282695770116?s=21

With only really the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) focussing in on this area globally, it needs more. I might add they’re doing a fantastic job with it and a number of their papers heavily influenced my thinking, but they can’t be the only institution driving this.

Evidenced in my study and on the TDFC website is the impact the community has had on altering behaviour positively. We’ve achieved identification with T1D for the first time in this population. Which I firmly believe has resulted in an upturn in the psychological and Hba1c measures that have been achieved within this population. This wasn’t achieved through the traditional models of care provided by Doctors and Nurses but through a new innovation which championed a new way of looking at the condition. Now this is not to diminish the contribution of our incredible Diabetes teams but rather to say, there’s more we can achieve, if we work closer together.

The overall outcomes of a condition determined by self-management is far more holistic than looking only to the medical professionals who support us for the answers. Sometimes, the answers come from ourselves, our choices and our behaviours…. Which may have been influenced.

I hope the blog gives some real insight into what I’ve been working away on in the background to try to drive change for our community as well as raising awareness of why TDFC is a special project.

Throughout all of this it’s important to know that TDFC stands right there beside our NHS and healthcare workers across the globe in trying to make life easier for people with Diabetes. We couldn’t do it without you and I hope we can help you more greatly in the future.

I must say a huge thank you to those who have shared the last 3 years of my journey and the research, projects and teams I’ve been a part of at the University of Worcester. Whilst I can’t forget the contribution of both the University itself and my supervisor Dr. Gyozo Molnar. Without their support it would not have been possible.

If anyone would like to discuss the study with me, its findings or any future collaborations with TDFC please do get in touch via email:

thediabetesfootballcommunity@gmail.com

Thanks for reading,

Chris

Jon Rosser: My life with Type 1 Diabetes

I’m Jon Rosser, 27 years old from Bristol and have been a type 1 diabetic for 17 years. Being involved with TDFC has enabled me to link up with other diabetics of varying ages and share our experiences, however this is often very focussed on the present – what we are currently doing, learning or going through. Reading these blogs, I found gaining an insight into these people’s pasts and hearing of their journey has been really enlightening and valuable, even for someone who has already learned to an extent how to live with the condition. So the obvious next step was to try and somehow put down my story outlining the changes it has made to my life and the lessons I’ve learned in the hope that others can take something from it like I have done. So here goes…

My journey starts with diagnosis at the age of 10 and the very familiar story of the tell tale signs. I was always thirsty! I didn’t really notice this symptom but my dad whose late mother was a Type 1 noticed I was increasingly up and down to the kitchen tap, filling up pint glasses of water and knocking them back like no tomorrow. As a result of this I was back and forth to the toilet and it didn’t take long for him to step in. Looking back at it now I suppose I was quite fortunate that my dad noticed this going on and intervened pretty early as I can’t actually remember feeling too bad! He made me do a urine sample and booked me into the doctors. A quick ketone test and finger prick confirmed what my dad had feared and arrangements were made for me to forget about going back to school, pack a bag and get to the hospital. Being a 10 year old I can remember feeling a bit oblivious to what was actually going on, but I knew that something had ultimately shifted by the way my dad had reacted, he seemed gutted and spoke to me about how we were going to go about telling my mum when we got home. I had never even heard of diabetes and was still completely naive about what was to come. 

A few hours later I was at Southmead Hospital being admitted into the children’s ward. A flurry of nurses were showing me my bed, where the toilets were, where the common room was, a full on tour of the facilities and this was the point where I kind of started to realise that I was here to stay for a while and this whole situation was going to be the start of something that was going to change my life forever. I was on this ward for 5 days and during this time I had to learn the skills that would ultimately keep me alive. One event that sticks in my mind from this period was when a 16 year old boy got rushed into the booth next to me. Other kids on the ward were all chatting to their neighbours so I welcomed a new face to hopefully ease the boredom. However on admission his curtains were shut and I remember feeling that the nurses were actively discouraging me from trying to say hello, and no sooner had he arrived he was gone again. I didn’t find out until years later that this guy was also a diabetic and had not woken up one morning due to having a serious hypo during the night. Looking back now I realise it was the right call not to let a newly diagnosed 10 year old get wind of this! The ward had a classroom where I spent a few hours a day which was nice as it got me out of my bed, but I remember being pulled out at regular intervals to be finger pricked and stuck with syringes and this was another point where I started to realise this was going to be the new normal from now on, and I didn’t like it one bit. How was this going to work at my own school? What about at football? I was bang into scouts at this age so how will I go on the camps? Can I even still do all these things? The answer of course was yes, but the anxiety and worry about all of this was something I will always remember. 

Fast forward a bit and I’d settled into my new routines, teachers and coaches had all been really engaged in making things as easy as possible for me. But it wasn’t all plain sailing by any means. I was initially put on the 2 injections a day regime and it wasn’t long before I felt frustrated at the restrictions of this, especially when transitioning to secondary school. Having to inject my insulin at the same time morning and evening, and knowing I HAD to also eat at these times each day meant things such as after school sports fixtures, clubs, and even just hanging out with friends would all have to be arranged around my insulin and meals. It took so much planning and at times I found it exhausting and stressful. 

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I want to shift the focus largely on how I’ve dealt with my diabetes within football and sport and I guess I’ve never let it stop me, but there have been times when I felt it has hindered me. At the age of 15 I joined Forest Green Rovers from just previously playing local junior football, and the training stepped up which was great! But it was a much more competitive environment and although to a certain extent I had always tried to keep my condition under wraps (which seems to be a common theme from guys writing these blogs), in this environment I found myself doing this even more. I didn’t want to show any weakness and felt an obligation to keep up with the standards being set, often not recognising that in order to do this I needed to take time out of sessions to take on sugar or test my levels. Occasionally this led me to playing on through hypos and my standards suffered as a result. Sometimes coaches and players would confuse my hypo reactions with being lazy or uninterested, and I found trying to explain what was actually going on sounded like excuses. The fact I was still on the 2 injections a day meant that I would get home from school, have to hastily eat a carby meal (to avoid going low during training) before heading straight off to train on a full stomach which personally my body did not deal well with – I’d feel heavy and slow. It was the same with the games – we played in a floodlit league so fixtures would be midweek evenings so my preparations would never be ideal. These pressures ultimately led me to change onto the basal bolus regime and immediately after I did that I saw the benefits, not just with my football but with my day to day life. The flexibility was something I’d been longing for and I continued to play for 2 more successful seasons at Forest Green, winning individual awards at presentations and I remember feeling really proud and realising at this point that I had gotten the upper hand on my diabetes and vowed to never let it beat me.

Another event that always sticks out to me as a time where I felt I overcame the urge to keep quiet and let my diabetes win was in a tennis tournament when I was about 17. Over the course of about 6 weeks I had played a match every week and got through to the final without any diabetes related issues. In this final however I struggled from the start. There were a fair few people watching and I was putting my performance down to nerves and threw away the first set in record time. On the switch around I asked the umpire for 10 minutes just to check my sugars which for me at the time took a lot of courage, I was 3.1. I remember sitting there in front of the crowd openly testing my sugars and taking on food which is something at that age I always felt really self conscious doing. My opponent was getting restless as were his supporters watching on but I stabilised my levels and got back out there… I smashed him in the next 2 sets to win the tournament. Like I said this was a real moment of realisation that I could achieve things in sport regardless of having this condition and getting dealt hypos, and it gave me confidence to keep aiming high. 

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The next major milestone for me was gaining a place at Plymouth University. Leaving the family home to move to a new city with new people, new surroundings and new routines was pretty daunting, and when you throw diabetes into the mix it was quite a challenge. I was having to shop and cook for myself and it took a while for me to get used to having full responsibility for what I put into my body in order to maintain good control of my condition. Students’ diets are notoriously not the best so resisting the urge to follow examples of quick, convenient, often high sugar and high carb meals set by my new found friends was important and something I’m glad I focussed on, as it set me up well to continue to control my diabetes successfully. I quickly got involved with the Uni football club and was playing regularly, although the routines and rituals of a university football club were much different to what I was used to. One thing I struggled with was the fact that if we’d win on a Wednesday afternoon (and often even when we lost!) after the game it was shirt and tie and straight to the bars. A lot of these guys wouldn’t take time out to eat post match, and especially after a good win, wouldn’t go home until the next morning. Being diabetic, I felt a bit of a kill joy having to temporarily leave a buzzing group of lads for a few hours to go and get some food of substance and make sure I recovered well in terms of glucose levels, especially when there was alcohol involved! This was a small price to pay though as I found if I put my diabetes first, I would have a much better time celebrating later on knowing I’d done what I needed to do in order for my sugars to behave (as well as they could) during a night out in Plymouth’s finest establishments. These were some of my best times playing football, the social side of the club was immense and winning a varsity and a cup in my 3 years at Plymouth are things I remember for the achievements and not how my diabetes hindered me!

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The most recent landmark in my footballing life has most definitely been getting involved with TDFC. I remember turning up to the first session and experiencing an environment where everyone there would openly discuss the condition, openly test their sugars and inject insulin, there was an underlying bond straight away. I had been so used to dealing with diabetes in a changing room and on a pitch on my own – it was solely my problem, and to feel that problem shared by everyone else there was so refreshing. No feeling guilty for taking time out to test sugars, no strange looks for sticking a needle in my arm, just a feeling of understanding and support. I have played in both DiaEuro tournaments that the UK team has entered in Bratislava and Kiev, and both times were amazing experiences. Playing against some top nations and top players gives you that drive to improve and I feel since being introduced to Futsal (which I had never played before TDFC) I have learned and improved my game as well as my control of my diabetes. I have also found myself transitioning skills I’ve learnt from Futsal into my 11-a-side game which is great! I’ve also found my Saturday team mates have taken a real interest in what I’ve been involved with regarding TDFC, seeing it on my social media and things like that. One of the lads has even adopted a pre match ritual of eating glucose tablets with me before kick off and now swears by it! 

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So that’s my story (so far!) of my life, football and sport with type 1 diabetes. My message to anyone maybe struggling to adapt to life and sport with diabetes is not to hide it, be open and honest about the problems you may encounter, it’s not a weakness! Although it presents challenges I feel diabetes has made me stronger in many ways, especially with discipline and will power… so keep at it!

Thanks all!

Jon

Instagram: @rossergram

Managing Type 1 Diabetes for Football & Futsal in 2020…

The new year is always a chance to take a fresh look at things and alter the path or journey we’re on…. At the start of every year I try to look at the context I’m surrounded by and set myself new goals or challenges which drive my motivation for what’s ahead.

But what I thought I’d do, to help some of you out there who might be thinking about starting a journey with Football/Futsal & Type 1 Diabetes or taking it up a level, is give you some insight around how I manage my condition. 2019 was a pretty good year for me with my sport so it’s probably a good time to share with you some of the ways I go about trying to get the best from my glucose levels to allow me to play to the best of my ability.

So I thought I’d outline some of the ideas, most of which I shared at the #SporT1Day conference, to hopefully provide some insight and support to anyone out there who might need it.

Here’s my general thoughts on what I try to do or think about for my management before any sport or exercise:

  • A plan of how to approach the sport/exercise/game – What type of exercise is it (interval, aerobic, anaerobic etc)? Intensity? Duration? Time of day? Timing of meals? Last Bolus?
  • Consistency of Routine – If it’s working, I keep using it.
  • Good night’s sleep.
  • Plenty of time between pre match meal insulin dose and starting the game (3 hours + ideally)
  • Lots of Testing – As much as you can or utilising a CGM such as the Dexcom G6 which has been the best I’ve used so far. This way you can learn about the effects of types of exercises, intensities, durations etc on your glucose levels.
  • Small adjustments of insulin & carbs to try and find the right glucose level for your best performance or for you to just enjoy it.
  • I aim for 7-8 mmols throughout the duration of any game to try and achieve my best performances.
  • Having my quick acting hypo treatments and insulin available and accessible for any adjustment I might need.
  • Consider the weather… Is it cold or hot? They usually play a part in how our glucose levels respond.
  • Am I in good general health? Have I been ill recently? Can play a part in less predictable glucose levels.
  • Keeping on top of my hydration… I find my levels drop more quickly if I’m dehydrated.
  •  Stress Levels – Do I feel nervous? Am I calm? Sometimes bigger games cause a bigger adrenaline spike in glucose levels. Do I need to account for this?
  • Have I fuelled up well before the exercise? Have I eaten enough calories/carbs in general for the energy I’m going to expend.
  • Always consider how much activity you’ve been doing around the particular sport or exercise you’re about to take part in, because the more active you are, the more sensitive to insulin you are!

Below are some of the generic details about my day to day management…

• My daily carb intake is around 180g. ( + or – depending on activity levels). I’m on MDI and CGM, No pump.
• Carb Ratios are roughly 1:15 g breakfast, 1:10g lunch, 1:7.5 g for dinner.
Much of what I’ve said above is linked to a generic way I tackle my Football or Futsal but there are some subtle differences I employ between the two because the intensity of the two sports is very different. This has a drastic impact on the reaction of my glucose levels and the way I manage them during and afterwards especially. So I’ll show you some of the key differences below:
Football (Example is preparation towards a Saturday 3pm Kick Off)
  • Aiming to be 7-8mmols to start the game and throughout.
  • Ensuring my pre-game meal & bolus is 3 hours before kick off.
  • Reducing pre-game meal bolus by roughly 10%.
  • Half time testing and adjusting based on level. If I’m below 9mmols I’ll take on 10g of carbs to cater for the second half dip and even more if my levels are below 5mmols. These choices very much depend on length of time you’re going to play and how hard the game is. If it’s a tough game with a lot of chasing then I sometimes have an extra 5-10g of carbs. If I’m over 13mmols I’ll take on a unit of insulin.
  • Post game meal I reduce my bolus by 25-50% depending on how much I’ve played and the intensity of the game.
  • I try to make my post-game meal both full of protein and carbohydrate to help with the recovery of glycogen stores and muscle growth/repair.
  • I will have a bed-time snack of 10-15g without a bolus to try and alleviate the nocturnal hypo risk. (If I’ve played a whole 90 minutes, I’ll scale all of this back if I’ve played less than that)
  • I don’t adjust my basal insulin because I use Tresiba, which is an ultra-long acting insulin and this will have no effect on my risk of a nocturnal hypo.

Futsal

  • I like to start the game at 5mmols if I can, because despite being lower,  I’m still likely to need a small bolus before the game or at half time to manage my levels rising as a result of the higher intensity and expected spike.
  • Because of the roll on, roll off substitutions within Futsal, there’s a lot more opportunity for adjustment. So I always come off from the court and immediately check my CGM and look for the trend arrows and glucose level.
  • I always tend to carry a bit of short acting insulin in my system because for me within Futsal, knowing I have frequent breaks and the likely impact of the intensity (levels rising), I’d rather be lower and taking on some glucose, as it reacts quicker than my insulin, than being too high and waiting for my insulin to kick in. The important factor for me is having a glucose level which allows for performance, not the number of adjustments I have to make.
  • I will always have a protein bar/snack post game of around 20g of carbs because I tend to have a sharp drop in my levels post game. Probably as a result of carrying short – acting insulin during my sport and the intensity.
  • I don’t make any bolus adjustments post – game to my meals. Again I’ll eat a meal heavy in protein and carbohydrate.
  • No basal adjustments as a result of using tresiba.
  • If I want a bed-time snack I’ll bolus for it with a small reduction of 25%.
Wales vs Northern Ireland - 2019 Home Nations Match 1 -62
I really hope that this is a useful post for people out there trying to tackle football or futsal for the first time, or who might be finding it challenging currently. If something from this article helps someone out there get more from their performance or just allows them to enjoy it more I’ll be happy!! Please give it a share if you can because I’m sure you’ll know someone who may also find this useful.
I’ve also added my slides from the #SporT1Day Conference to the bottom of this post if you wanted to see what I shared on the day, which also has much of this detail in.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year! Please also be aware of the below disclaimer.
Chris
Disclaimer – Always remember that this a personal perspective and is not endorsed by a medical professional. So any advice or ideas you take from this post is at your own risk and should always be cleared by your diabetes team. 

Chris Bright Presentation 2019 ( #SporT1Day Conference )

World Diabetes Day 2019 – Chris’ Message

A day that I remind myself to thank the great Sir Frederick Banting for the gift he gave me, a chance to continue living my life despite being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. His co-creation of Insulin in the 1920’s has saved millions of lives, including my own, from a life cut short by this condition. This day is about you my friend, as we celebrate your birthday and the gift you gave us.

With that extra time you’ve given me, I hope I’ve done you proud. I’ve done my best to defy the pitfalls of Diabetes and use the experiences I’ve worked hard for and been fortunate enough to have, to help others that share this condition with me. I feel that your gift to us all is one I won’t overlook or take lightly, and if I can gift anything back to others like me, then I will at least be living in a way which befits your legacy. I know I’m lucky I’m still here, with the developments of science, and in particular the incredible NHS, to thank for the life I’m able to live in 2019. Others round the world still aren’t as lucky as we are here in the UK and I’ll always be grateful for what we have.

Through the work of TDFC, the honour of representing my country within Futsal and my advocacy work for the condition, I hope I do what I can to ensure the time I’ve been given back is not wasted. I’m able to live a life which I decide upon, not my condition, which is all thanks to you, Sir Frederick Banting. There is another person I want to talk about though today…

A man whom I’ve rarely mentioned publicly when talking about Diabetes is my grandfather who also lived with Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 21 in 1956 and lived 40 years with type 1 before he died in 1997. 40 years of living with the condition whilst having only the use of animal insulin and without the medical support/devices we have nowadays to help us control it. I think to do that was pretty amazing and even though we met for just a short period in my life, I’m just glad I got the chance. A man with an incredible story, who defied the odds more so than I have in my opinion, that I wish I’d have had the chance to get to know more.  I was very young at the time of his passing and at this point I hadn’t been diagnosed with Type 1. I’m grateful he never saw a day where I was diagnosed with the condition (My Mum is too!) , which had potentially passed on a generation to me, because I know he’d have been devastated. But more than ever I wish he’d have seen the work that has been done through The Diabetes Football Community. In the face of what we both lived with, I’ve tried to tread a positive path, which I’m hoping many others can follow.  I know he will have been extremely proud of this project and I’m sure he’s looking down smiling upon it all from wherever he is.

I wanted to talk about both of these men, whom never knew I lived with Type 1 Diabetes, because of the lasting impact that they have had on my life. A day of remembering Sir Frederick Banting felt like the right time to remember my Grandad too. A day full of positivity surrounding Diabetes that I want to dedicate to them both.

My life now consists of ensuring I do them both proud by ensuring I live a life full of positive experiences, whilst sharing the journey and helping others with the condition fulfil their potential in sport. If I can do that I’ll be a happy guy and I think they would be too. I’ve now lived with the condition half as long as my Grandad did, with this year marking 20 years. I hope by the time I hit 40 years since my diagnosis, diabetes will be something we remembered we lived with not something we continue to.

So what’s my lasting message for World Diabetes Day?

Be grateful for what we have, treat the time we have as a gift and don’t let Diabetes define the way you live your life. See it as an extra hurdle to jump not a mountain to climb.

This one is for you Grandad & Sir Frederick Banting…. I hope I’ve done your legacies proud.

If you want to see an incredibly inspiring story from Katie McLean who’s sharing her story publicly with us for the first-time head to the below link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QbZR6alWBw

And make sure you don’t forget to pick up your tickets to #SporT1Day this Sunday at the University of Worcester (17th November 2019)… We still have a few left and you can get your hands on them on the below link:

www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sport1day-2019-tickets-59520275747

Have a great day everyone and Happy World Diabetes Day 2019!

Chris

#DiabetesWeek 2019… See Diabetes Differently

As the motto for Diabetes Week 2019 is “See Diabetes Differently” it’s great to be able to share an interview that Chris conducted with DigiBete (www.digibete.org) which focusses upon mindset and the approach to sport/exercise that he takes in the hope it may help others living with Diabetes. It’s different to the usual articles/content on the physical management of the condition for sport but we hope it proves to be useful!

A huge thank you to DigiBete for asking Chris and putting the time into creating this amazing video. If you want to check out their resources for people with type 1 diabetes surrounding sport & exercise head to the below link:

https://www.digibete.org/resources/sportsandexercise/

We must also thank the University of Worcester who gave Chris & DigiBete permission to shoot on their campus. Thank you!

We hope you enjoy the video and we’d love to hear your feedback on it! Please share far and wide if you enjoyed it as you never know who it may reach!

Thanks,

TDFC Team

Mo’s Story with TDFC so far…

Mo, is one of the newest members of the Diabetes Football community family having recently finding us! We wanted to get his initial thoughts on what it’s been like since he joined in with our Adult diabetes Futsal teams in Worcester and London. No more words from us over to Mo to tell us about the experience so far.

“I came across the diabetes football community by chance; having attended a type 1 diabetes technology event where Chris Bright presented.

Since that point in time it’s been brilliant, as you’ll see from reading on.

I was diagnosed age 2.5, some 27 years back. Throughout my school life I was always held back from sport as teachers wouldn’t risk me having a hypo. I felt left out many times, but it did spur on a desire to ask “why not?”. I always used to challenge restrictions brought on by society and more often than not was able to prove people wrong.

Through this, I played a lot of sport and it helped me during those early years keep good control of my diabetes and pick up a few hobbies. I also had an amazing paediatric team which inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare (hospital pharmacy).

However, back then diabetes communities were relatively scattered and so I did not know many other type 1’s. I managed the condition entirely on my own, taking on the burdens of life without having a community to share it with.

The diabetes football community totally changed this. The very first training session was brilliant! It was professionally organised, I met fellow type 1’s with respectfully unique stories and had tonnes of fun in a competitive environment. The best bit was having the knowledge that you had each other’s backs if anyone had a hypo (something I had never experienced before in my life).

The toughest thing for me to process as part of my diabetes is my job. I feel heartbroken on many days when I treat people with diabetes who have not been fortunate with their health outcomes. Many are in situations that cannot be reversed and a huge number suffer from mental health problems directly relating to the burden of managing diabetes. I often feel that many of these issues could have been prevented if people were in the right environment and had a drive to manage their condition well.

This is probably what I value most about this community. I feel that it provides an environment for people to enjoy sport, push themselves, feel supported and ultimately get better. It’s unique in this regard. I’m glad I’m part of this project as I feel it’s got a long way to go yet!

Furthermore, throughout my life I’ve always been the sportiest person with Diabetes I knew of. On the first training session, I was surrounded by stronger, faster, more skilful and fitter individuals. This has motivated me to up my game, and also to work hard to try out for the national team next year.

I’ve had the privilege to be part of the London Futsal team that started this year and have already learnt so much from the invaluable experience of other members. We’ve already made history by taking part in a league game against an all deaf team.

Can’t wait to see what the future brings!”

A great account from Muhammad on his initial thoughts on the magic of TDFC and the way we encourage, inspire and support our players with Diabetes to keep going no matter the challenges the condition puts in front of us!

Thanks Mo. 🙂

Our Journey with Type 1 and Football…

Another amazing story to share with the community brought to you by Karen Brown, the mother of Ellen, a young type 1 who’s having a fantastic time with her Football/Futsal at the moment. Ellen & Karen have been big advocates and supporters of our work at TDFC from the very early days so it’s brilliant to be able to share their story! No more words needed from us, over to you Karen…

“Our daughter Ellen was diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes. As you all know it hits like a bomb and the early days are hard. Somewhere amongst the haze of diagnosis we made a decision that when we got Ellen home we would stabilise her doing all of the sport she usually did. So the day after discharge we took her to school for a few hours and the following Monday she started back swimming. I sat on the edge of the pool chewing my nails hoping she would be fine. Strangely enough the year she was diagnosed is the only year she hasn’t played football (played 1 year of netball and hated it!). Ellen prefers to manage her diabetes with a pump (Medtronic) and we use CGM periodically.

Since then it has been buckets of football and within the last 4 years she has also played futsal in the off-season. It is amazing how different the two are to manage. Football often sends her low- particularly in the cold Canberra winters (we live in Australia) whereas futsal sends her high due to the adrenaline. As futsal isn’t as big in Canberra her futsal club (Boomerangs FS) travel to Sydney to play in a Sydney comp. So every Sydney game we travel between 2 ½ to 4 hours each way (depending on what side of Sydney the game is) to play. The weather in Canberra is quite dry whereas Sydney can be humid which can affect Ellen’s BGLs (sends her low) so at the half way stop en route to the game we reduce insulin if she has any carbs and put a reduced temp basal on. We find doing low carb on the morning prior to the Sydney trips much easier to manage. At least we are only fixing the humidity problem. Then during the games she heads high! Sydney games we nearly always use CGM to help keep an eye on things. If it’s a home game its breakfast as usual. After the game she eats what she wants.

Ellen Brown Picture 3

Whilst having diabetes can be tough when you are playing football and futsal, we run at it with the attitude that if we have a tough day diabetes wise we look at why and see if we can do something different. There are days when you just can’t explain why the numbers are what they are! All of her coaches and teams have been really supportive and the boys often try and guess her Blood Glucose Level – she plays in the Boys National Premier League. Ellen also chooses to celebrate her ‘diaversary’, so the team usually hangs out for the cupcakes she takes along to celebrate another year kicking the butt of diabetes.

Having diabetes hasn’t stopped Ellen from achieving in soccer and futsal. The last 12 months have been particularly rewarding!!! 12 months ago her girls futsal team won both the premiership and championship in the Sydney comp. For outdoor her BBFC U16’s team made the Grand Final and won in a penalty shootout. She then made the ACT team (regional team) to play futsal at Nationals in January – they were runners up in the Grand Final in a penalty shootout. And a couple of weeks ago at the presentation night for Boomerangs FS, Ellen was awarded female player of the year. We are pretty proud of her. Winning isn’t everything but it is great to get some wins and they have been a while coming!! Though I must say the victories are much sweeter after the effort you put in to get the diabetes right. (excuse the pun!)

Ellen Brown Picture 1

As much as it is a challenge, there have been lots of good things about having diabetes in our lives for the last 8 years. We have made a whole new bunch of friends we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Whilst it is so nice being able to converse with those who understand the challenges and learn new things from. Ellen has had the opportunity to speak at JDRF fundraisers and she was recently asked to take part in some research at ANU.

Being part of TDFC has been a huge help though. It was so nice to hear from others who play football and be able to read about their experiences. With Ellen being a girl it was so nice to read about Noel and what she has achieved. We got to meet Zac (UK DiaEuro Player) at one of Ellen’s games in Sydney and hope to see him again soon. Whilst it’s also great to see that Chris represented his country in Futsal, which gives Ellen so much hope she can achieve the same.

Ellen Brown Picture 4

To any young footballer out there, chase your dreams. Ellen’s favourite saying is “I don’t live with diabetes, diabetes lives with me”.”

 

A really great blog written by Karen Brown and a huge thank you from us for putting it together. If there’s anyone out there reading this who’d like to contribute in a similar way get in touch! We’re always on the look out for blogs and stories to share…

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 2 (Scott Burrell)

In our second instalment of “It’s much more than just Football or Futsal” we look at the story of Scott Burrell. His journey with TDFC and type 1 Diabetes has been staggering and for those of you unaware of what Diabetes care was like without the technology that is available now, I’d urge you to read on… This is a fascinating account of how TDFC has effected and improved Scott’s life and another example of a social / community based project like ours supporting healthcare benefits and objectives for those living with the condition. No more talking from us lets hear from Scott in his own words:

“Being selected in the UK DiaEuro squad really changed my ‘diabetic life’ and that’s by no means an exaggeration! Firstly, and something a majority of the squad had said, was that they’d never met another T1 in ‘normal’ life so that was great. Like any football squad you tend to bond quite quickly with the other players but we bonded especially quickly as we all shared the condition. My knowledge of T1 has increased ten fold. It was great to share stories and bounce successes/failures off each other.

I was actually the only member on mixed insulin. I was taking Humulin M3 which was the same insulin I’d used since diagnosis in 1999! I’d been told for many years, probably close to 10, that a basal/bolus regime would be better for me, but me being a stubborn so and so I’d always thought I’d be better sticking with what I knew. Seeing all the other lads using the basal/bolus regime and many telling me how they had moved from mixed insulin and how much better it was really gave me the incentive to change.

A few months after we got back I eventually made the switch and now take Toujeo & Novo Rapid, I’m finding it much better and in hindsight wish I’d changed over many years ago. I’m certainly having less hypos which had always been a big problem for me before. As good as healthcare professionals are it was the kick from people living with the condition day in, day out which convinced me to finally change.

Finally I’m a lot more open about my Diabetes now… Growing up and even in my early 20s I’d try to hide it as much as possible, not talk about it and only tell people I was T1 if really needed. My mentality completely changed about that having been selected in the squad. I’ve now had newspaper articles written about me and appeared in a TDFC video filmed by BBC Hereford & Worcester which they shared on their social media platforms talking about the project and the condition. It actually made me feel ‘proud’ and gave me a desire to talk about diabetes for the first time…something I’d never experienced before in my time as a T1.”

Keep an eye out for more stories from some of the community and if you want to follow Scott on social media head to his twitter account @scottbufc to get in contact with him.

Announcement: TDFC London est. 2019

Hello reader, Happy New Year!

It’s crazy to think that it was only 9 months ago that I heard about the TDFC project. Via the community, I’ve met some really top people and represented the UK at DiaEuro 2018.  An amazing journey so far, but what does the year ahead look like?

I’d already bought into the vision of TDFC before participating for the UK team at DiaEuro in Bratislava this summer. However, as a type 1 diabetic for 7 years now, I was stunned with how much more I learnt about the condition during the course of the tournament. I didn’t even have to try. Diabetes related chitchat would pop up naturally all the time. I gained loads of great insight on how to manage the condition whilst playing sport and life in general.  My control was the best it had been in years too, and that seemed the case for multiple players.

The whole experience got us thinking – the platform for diabetics with a passion for playing football to meet up and learn from each other really does need expanding. It could bring so much good for diabetics new and old. Our experience was proof of it!

On the final day of DiaEuro 2018, whilst watching Bosnia cruise to victory in the final, we found out something very interesting. We learnt that the Bosnian team compete on a weekly basis in the 2nd division of the Bosnian Futsal League. That’s mega impressive: an entire team of diabetics playing (and winning) against high level non-diabetic team’s week in week out. This didn’t just give them the edge to win DiaEuro, it’s allowed them to raise the profile of diabetes and help to break down any perceived barriers to participation, a key goal of TDFC.

Post DiaEuro, with a strong desire to help TDFC grow and see the UK team improve at the next DiaEuro tournament, we decided to develop a new project – to set up the first all diabetic futsal/football team to compete in the English futsal/football pyramid.

  • Where? London.
  • When? Now!
  • Futsal/Football? Futsal (to begin with)
  • Club name? TDFC London

Over the past few months, we’ve laid down the foundations to get the project underway. Some great conversations with the London Futsal League, in combination with an opening for new teams to join the new season in February 2019, means we’re only weeks away from launching!

If you are at all interested in joining TDFC London, whether it be as a player, coach, sponsor or supporter (the more fans the better), contact tdfclondon19@gmail.com to find out how to get involved.

Hopefully this is just the start of things to come. It would be amazing to one day see the platform expand to provide opportunities for men and women of all ages, all over the country.

The year ahead looks good

Bryn

Project development manager

2018… Looking back to look forward

Firstly I’d like to wish all of our followers, volunteers, players, coaches and anyone involved in the TDFC family a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

What a year it has been…. We’ve done some incredible things in 2018 and I really just wanted to summarise what’s happened, thank some of the amazing people who have helped us make it happen and look forward to what 2019 might bring for The Diabetes Football Community.  

So where do I start…

For me one of the most important projects to highlight and look back on was one of the first in 2018. The 24 hours in the life of a Diabetic Footballer ( #WalkInOurBoots) was an important awareness and education project which showcased the Andrewartha family and Mitch’s battles with type 1 as a young footballer. This video fills me with immense pride every time I watch it. For me it encapsulates everything about living with type 1 and wanting to play football during childhood. It showcases the immense physical and emotional strain it puts on the family, as well as the incredible amount of preparation and determination needed from Mitch and his parents to get him out there playing on a Saturday. Every time I watch it back I’m inspired, moved and so grateful to the community we’ve created for supporting our ideas and projects. We do it for you and we couldn’t do it without you!

IMG_2445
A massive thank you to Dave, Faye & Mitch for agreeing to do the documentary and their amazing performances! Also a huge thank you must go to Ferenc Nagy who filmed and edited the video. A great job buddy…. If you want to check out the documentary head over to the below link where you can find the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjlrLbvWr4&t=39s

The #WalkInOurBoots campaign was just the start!!! We then focussed on creating the first ever all Diabetes team to represent the UK and compete at the European Futsal Championships for people with diabetes (DiaEuro, www.diaeuro.org )… We don’t like to do things by halves! From the outset I knew it would be ambitious and extremely challenging to not only recruit players living with diabetes, but also to recruit members of the “staff” team who were willing to give up their time for nothing other than the experience (thank you to Harley, Paul & Jahna)! But what about the money?!! It’s quite expensive to get 14 people on a plane with kit and a roof over their head for a week!! A massive thank you must go to our sponsors Dexcom, Gluco and Havas Lynx for supporting the project in 2018 as we couldn’t have done it without you! As I look back now… A year ago it was an idea in my head which I’d just started to share on social media….  A year later and we’ve played in our first tournament and are planning for our second…. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to check it’s all been real! It was an incredible journey and achievement to create the team, manage the project and play in the tournament. Being stood alongside my 10 fellow type 1’s to represent our country and our condition was something I’ll never ever forget. Scoring 2 goals in our first win just topped it all off for me…. It still feels like a dream to me. I’ve made lifelong friends through this project and I hope the community draws a huge amount of inspiration from what we were able to achieve! With everyone’s support I hope this is a project and team I hope we can continue for many years to come…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf8n6LSLRRM

Whilst we were busy planning for DiaEuro we also joined forces with 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester to deliver the first Type 1 Diabetes and Sports conference in the UK led by people with Diabetes for people with Diabetes ( #SporT1Day ). An idea conjured up by myself and Paul Coker, we wanted to bring people together to further the knowledge of sport and exercise management for those living with type 1 diabetes. We tried our best to bring in speakers which demonstrated a variety of sports, approaches and experiences to offer a rounded view of type 1 management in sport and exercise. The line up included type 1 professional athletes, university lecturers, a psychologist and sporty individuals keen to share their experience of managing the condition.  It really was a special event which I loved hosting and presenting at. I hope that everyone attended continues to utilise the strategies shared on the day and due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received it’s something myself, Paul and the University are looking at re-creating in 2019 so keep your eyes peeled for that. A huge thank you to those who attended and to 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester for co-creating this amazing event! If you want to read up on the 2018 conference check out the below blog post:

(https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/05/28/the-first-sport1day-conference-organisers-perspective-chris-bright/ )

 

I feel that whilst we try to support people with the condition through advice, education and support through the community’s projects and members, I’ve always felt we need to try and drive change in a mainstream environment to counteract the stigma and stereotypes myself and many others have experienced. To do this I felt it was important to bring stakeholders in the Diabetes and Football world together to strive for change. In July 2018, we had the first Diabetes Steering group meeting led by the Worcestershire FA to do just that. We’ve invited the local university, the local NHS, members and volunteers involved in The Diabetes Football Community as well as parents of a child living with type 1 to join us within the group. Our remit is very much about trying to improve the knowledge and awareness of Diabetes within Football to improve the inclusivity of those living with the condition within the game. So far we’ve had 2 very positive meetings with some brilliant ideas coming up which we hope to develop forward into 2019. It’s a hugely positive step in the right direction which I’m sure will see tangible results for the whole community in the not too distant future!!

Around the time of our first meeting I also went over to Ireland on a scouting mission… Myself and Zak Brown (Our UK DiaEuro Manager’s Player of the Tournament), had spotted online about a junior small sided football tournament taking place in Dublin for children with diabetes and with the nature of what TDFC does it was something we couldn’t afford to miss… Ever since I started TDFC up the support of parents and children coping with type 1 diabetes has been incredible and this was an opportunity for us to do some fact finding for the future… I want us to deliver a project which really gives back to this group of people and I promise that we’re planning something for 2019, I just need to get my masters out of the way first!!! Diabetes Ireland did an amazing job at delivering their tournament and celebrating the successes of the children who took part. I was just so glad we were able to attend on the day and thank you for your hospitality… If you’d like to read up more on this check out the below blog post:

https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/09/10/diabetes-junior-cup-2018/

 

I think one of our last projects is perfect for this time of year! If you need any inspiration around this festive period or you’re finding things tough I urge you to watch our World Diabetes Day video below… The kids did an amazing job at sharing their thoughts and they get me every time! It’s very special seeing the way the community has come together to support what was an idea floating around in my head. This is all about you, the people who interact with us, and as long as we continue to hit the mark by educating, supporting and inspiring you, I’ll be delighted! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C353oCtYH2U

A year I will never forget and one that has shaped the future for TDFC. We’ve become an official registered community interest organisation which has furthered the ambition and potential reach for the future, we’ve received recognition on local BBC radio stations and social media, we’ve exhibited up and down the country at conferences in the Diabetes world and continued to grow our social media presence throughout 2018. None of this is possible without the continued support of people in the Diabetes community so all I’d ask is if you like what we do, please keep sharing, raising awareness and getting in contact with us. We will always need support and funding to make our goals happen so whether you like, share and retweet our posts or you’re able to help us with sponsorship or donating to the cause everything is valuable and we appreciate it so much.

 

But let me give you a sneak peak at what we’re thinking for 2019…

There will be more of the same but hopefully with some exciting new developments alongside projects we already have in place.

The UK DiaEuro Adult team will be continuing with an emphasis on the DiaEuro tournament in 2019 whilst also creating opportunities to play against our near neighbours in Ireland who are creating their own team. I’m seeing an exciting future for our local rivalry!!! Another exciting participation opportunity for the adult type 1’s in the London area is the creation of TDFC London,  project managed by our man Bryn White to take part in the London Futsal League (https://www.facebook.com/LondonFutsalLeague/) as an all diabetes team for the very first time. They will be kicking off for their first competitive game in February 2019, so keep an eye out for the developments on our social media and if you’d like to help support them, get involved with the project, play in the team or sponsor please do get in touch!

As I mentioned we hope to re-create the #SporT1Day conference in 2019 that takes on the feedback from last year to offer a bigger and better event! I’ll be working with Paul and the university to see when and how we go about doing this over the coming months… As always any ideas you may have make sure you get in touch.

As I alluded to within the Ireland trip I mentioned earlier it’s definitely time we tried to put a participation opportunity together for our type 1 kids and their parents out there. I’d like us to work towards delivering a day/tournament in 2019 but this will as always rely on support from the community, sponsors and volunteers to make it happen but it’s something I’m really passionate about creating, so let’s give it a shot!

Lastly, I’d suggest that our emphasis around education will be pushed further as we continue to develop the Diabetes Steering group and partnerships with other organisations to champion education on diabetes throughout different walks of life. We’re really keen to ensure we develop resources and tools to drive further understanding and awareness within mainstream environments/sport whether that is with the FA, schools or clubs. If you have any ideas about how we might do this we’re all ears.

Right… I’ve talked far too much on this blog but I felt it was important to demonstrate the amazing work we’ve achieved in 2018, our amazing community and the ambition we have for the future. The wave is coming and growing in size. Patient led initiatives like ours are beginning to help shape the way people are supported with chronic medical conditions and I couldn’t be prouder to be the founder of this one…

A favourite saying of mine at the moment is dream big, then dream bigger. If we can achieve all of this in one year, myself and TDFC need to set our sights on doing it bigger and better in 2019! Which is exactly what we intend to do.

Lastly to anyone out there who might be reading this, in any part of the globe, if you like what we’re doing or want to get involved please get in touch! We know that our work isn’t confined to the UK where we’re based and the ideas we generate are mostly what we come up with! If you’d like to help in any way or work with us, you know where we are.

As always a huge thank you to the directors and volunteers who give up their time to support our cause, we couldn’t do it without you! Let’s make 2019 bigger and better than what has gone before.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Chris