How to Control Diabetes: Tips From 5 Famous Footballers

Diabetes Care|Jul.24, 2018


The past few weeks have been dominated by the FIFA World Cup craze. Multiple matches, constantly on the run, 90 minute plays, rough-housing on the field. Makes you wonder how intense an experience it is to be an athlete; an experience that can leave even the healthiest of folks feel challenged in its wake. Adding diabetes to the mix of becoming a professional athlete can make it seem like an insurmountable goal, but there are more athletes than you might realize who can challenge this notion. These athletes are great examples of what people can accomplish when they decide not to let diabetes stand in the way of their passion and ambition.

Today, we highlight five legendary football players who have overcome the limitations of their condition and have gone on to become an inspiration to all my learning to manage diabetes and keeping at their atheletic aspirations

  1. Scott Allan
    Scott Allan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 3 years old. Playing with diabetes is not a problem for Allan, provided his blood sugar is between 4 to 6 mmol/L for the 90 minutes of play.

    "A lot of people think that diabetes is a set way for somebody, but everyone is different and their bodies act differently. Other sportspeople need to be high before they exercise, but I need to run lower otherwise I'll spike," he told "Some people find that really hard to believe. My ideal number before playing would be 5 mmol/L."

    Allan emphasises living a normal life and shows young players living with diabetes that as long as they manage their diabetes, they can do anything they want.

  2. Antonia Göransson
    Swedish midfielder Antonia Göransson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2015, just before her departure to the U.S. on a contract with the American Premier League. Only three months later, she found balance in her routine, learning how to control diabetes.

    "The doctors say that it was unusual for me to get type 1 diabetes so late in life. I just want to recover so I can start my life as a football pro. I have gained insight into the disease in a short time. But I'm used to exercising and eating healthy," she told "I think if Pär Zetterberg could deal with it throughout his football career so can I, and I really want to give myself a chance to be as good as I know that I can be."

    With 50 national championships behind her, Göransson said she realizes her health is her priority and looks forward to helping her team and developing as a football player. She believes the diagnosis has helped her understand herself better and looks forward to making her mark again.

  3. Gary Mabbutt
    Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 17. Three specialists told him this could likely mean the end of his career, yet he went on to be the first diabetic to play for England and made 611 appearances for Tottenham.

    Mabbutt told the Daily Mail in 2017, "Given the choice of injecting yourself or dying, it's easy."
    His strict diabetes care routine involves seven injections and 10 blood tests daily. He carries fruit pastilles to manage unexpected hypoglycaemia.

    While it takes constant work to tackle diabetes, Mabbutt says even though each case is different, it needn't come in the way of one's competitive career.

  4. José "Nacho" Fernández Iglesias
    José "Nacho" Fernández Iglesias was 12 and on Real Madrid's books for two years when he was hospitalised and diagnosed with diabetes. The doctor told him his football days were over. However, a second opinion from an endocrinologist told him that it was essential for him to continue playing as the physical exercise was important.

    "Diabetes doesn't mean as a young kid you can't have a normal life, and practising sport is the most important thing in combating it. I have to give myself injections every day and I have to take care with food and drink that have a high sugar level. But sport for a person with diabetes is fundamental." Nacho told IOL.

    Today, Nacho has proven that a player can not only cope with diabetes but they can reach the top.

  5. Danny McGrain
    A fractured skull. A long-term injury. Living with diabetes. None of this deterred Danny McGrain, former footballer for Celtic and Hamilton Academical. He simply bounced back to play in two World Cup finals and has a brilliant record coaching Celtic.

    "Diabetes never caused a problem with my football, apart from the fact it made me never to have a shot at goal for Celtic! It was a journey into the unknown ... but the hospital staff told me about how mountaineers and golfers had got the better of [diabetes]," McGrain told the Daily Record.

    He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1974 and recommends a healthy lifestyle of eating the right foods and drinks at the right time of day. Through his disciplined and highly organised lifestyle, McGrain has learned how to control his diabetes. Postdiagnosis, he's had a successful football career for more than 13 years.

The message from the champions is clear: While living with diabetes, it's critical to keep a positive attitude, understand your unique condition and learn how to control it. There's no limit to what can be accomplish despite the odds.


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