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Professional Athletes With Diabetes

I can run from Diabetes, but I'll never get very far. Gary Hall Junior

You’d never know from watching them that these men reached their professional status with a chronic disease like diabetes. Find out how these four athletes with diabetes manage their illness along with their careers:

Jay Cutler, Football

Jay Cutler’s only indication he had diabetes was his inability to maintain his weight while playing for the Denver Broncos in 2007. Doctors initially thought it was stress that made Cutler drop from 235 pounds to 202, despite protests that he felt fine. However, when he was finally diagnosed in 2008, Cutler said he knew he had to make some drastic changes to his diet.

He started by cutting out refined carbohydrates and sweets and focusing on proteins and natural foods such as fruit. Cutler, who now plays quarterback for the Chicago Bears and has his own show on ESPN, said it takes daily commitment to manage diabetes.

“It’s not something that you can just be like ‘Hey, I’m going to take a day off here and I’ll catch back up with it tomorrow.'”

Gary Hall Jr., Swimming

Gary Hall, Jr. learned he had Type 1 diabetes while he was training for the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. He quickly educated himself about the disease to defy his doctors’ prognosis that his swimming career was over.

“I can run from diabetes, but I’ll never get very far,” he told Diabetes Health. “It’s gonna catch up to me, and I need to deal with it and move on.”

Hall proved his initial prognosis wrong when he took gold medals not only in Sydney, but in Athens in 2004. Hall now speaks about diabetes and how it shouldn’t deprive people of their goals and dreams.

Learn more about diabetes.

Nick Boynton, Hockey

Nick Boynton was told incorrectly that he had Type 2 diabetes when he was 19 years old before his doctors finally made the correct Type 1 diagnosis. Despite being diagnosed at such a young age in his hockey career, Boynton played 11 seasons in the National Hockey League, logging more than 600 games and helping the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup win in 2010.

“My advice to other young athletes would be to find a level that works for you, especially for training,” Boynton told Diabetes Health. “Make sure your blood glucose is at the level you want it by testing often. I make sure I test a lot. That’s one thing I do that’s very important, because if I’m low, then bad things are going to happen out on the ice. I find out what works for me with food and test my glucose as often as I can.”

Jay Leeuwenburg, Football

When Jay Leeuwenburg was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12, he hadn’t even considered becoming a football player. He simply used exercise and sports to manage his condition, playing football and basketball and joining the wrestling team. It wasn’t until he played collegiate football that he realized he had the chance to go pro and was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

After a stint with Indianapolis, he went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals and write a book titled, “Yes I Can! Yes You Can! Tackle Diabetes and Win!” Leeuwenburg said he had developed a training regimen to maximize his performance and said he tested his blood sugar levels as often as 40 times on game days.

“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best with diabetes and life,” he said.

Take inspiration from these athletes with diabetes who made the best of their diagnoses to achieve athletic success.

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