This World Diabetes Day, hullfc.com caught up with 24-year-old Cam Scott for an extended interview, discussing living with the condition as a professional athlete.
According to statistics, one in ten adults worldwide have diabetes. Those who play sport at a professional level are not immune to the condition.
Whilst there are treatments for diabetes, there is no outright cure. So for now, diabetes is something Cam Scott has learned to live with, as he explains how he was diagnosed with it.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was fourteen, so it’s coming up to the ten year anniversary,” he told hullfc.com.
“It was over a four month period that I noticed something wasn’t quite right. I started losing weight without being able to explain why, or I would often feel fatigued. I would start drinking water all of the time, which was really abnormal because I didn’t usually drink as much as that. I would wake up about four to six times a night, and that was the endless cycle I found myself in all of the time.
“I went down from being about eleven stone to seven stone in a pretty short space of time whilst I was still a teenager, so I knew something wasn’t right and I got a GP appointment. I had a blood test where my vein collapsed and I also had a ketone test – the nurse said it was just down to an infection.
“I ended up going back two days later and I got an admittance note from my GP, saying it should have never got to that stage. So then, I spent a week in hospital once I had been diagnosed.”
There are three different types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes affects those going through pregnancy. Meanwhile, type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not make any or enough insulin, meaning blood sugars cannot enter the body cells to be used for energy.
Whilst type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed at an early age, type 2 often develops in adults, but this doesn’t mean children and young people can’t be diagnosed with it. Type 2 diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high.
At the age of 14, Cam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But being a professional athlete, he says living with diabetes can have its extra challenges.
“I had a bit of an issue quite recently in the off-season. I went to bed one night as normal, but I woke up at 4am with a drip attached to me and two paramedics standing at the end of my bed because I had fallen unconscious,” he said.
“There have been incidents during training or in games where my sugars have suddenly gone very high and that’s lead to severe cramping.
“It’s difficult because adrenaline is quite a big thing in sport and adrenaline has quite a big effect on sugars. So staying on top of my sugars and keeping them in range is what brings the best out of my performance.
“Unfortunately it’s something that is just so unpredictable and you never really know when an episode is around the corner. It’s something that people are still researching and working on.
“Obviously there’s a lot of protein shakes involved with being a professional athlete, and they often contain a lot of carb content. The same goes for pre-workout. They can have the effect of raising sugar levels. Over the last couple of years, I’ve really looked closely at the supplements I take, just making sure I’m managing my levels as best as possible.”
Along with the support network of his family, friends and colleagues at Hull FC, Cam also visits a specific diabetic clinic once every three months.
If you have diabetes and would like to arrange to join a clinic, you can find your nearest centre by clicking this link.
Visiting the clinic gives medical professionals the opportunity to keep tabs on Cam, both in person and remotely.
“I go to the diabetic clinic every three months and I speak to a consultant through the NHS,” he said.
“It’s funny because before I started playing for Hull, the conversations were very generic throughout my teenage years.
“But since I’ve got into being a full-time professional athlete, I probably get more questions from the clinic than I do answers because the consultant I see hasn’t ever dealt with a sportsperson at my level before.
“It’s just really good to have that support network. When I have any issues like having to call an ambulance out, the process is that the clinic will give me a phone call every day for three days to properly check in on me.
“I’ve also got a remote sensor fitted in on my arm, where they can constantly monitor me. All of that data also connects to an app on my phone, so I can also see what my levels are looking like.”
It’s now been almost ten years of living with diabetes for Hull FC’s 24-year-old outside back.
It has become a part of his every day life, but that hasn’t taken away the fear factor, as he describes how traumatic having diabetes can be.
“It’s massively scary. For me, it’s how quickly things can turn that scares me. There’s been times where I’ve been training and it can suddenly comes over you,” he explained.
“The unpredictability of it and the inconsistency is frightening. I’ve had my sugar levels drop really low before and still be conscious, but sometimes they can drop ever so slightly and that’s enough to put me out cold. It’s really scary.
“Thankfully, I’m not alone. There are other athletes with diabetes. Richard Horne, obviously a club legend at Hull FC, had diabetes as well and I had a good conversation with him about how he dealt with it as a player.
“Henry Slade, who plays Rugby Union for Exeter Chiefs, is also diagnosed with diabetes. I’ve not spoken with him but I’ve read some interesting articles that he’s done about how he deals with it.”