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Teenage Athletes Struggle to Manage Diabetes in High School Sports

Posted on Nov 30, 2012

Some teenagers who play sports have to worry about more than attending practice and keeping up their grades. Many American teen athletes are under additional pressure to manage their diabetes symptoms.

Florida student Teresa Cioffoletti learned that she had type 1 diabetes when she was 9 years old. Today, she’s a 15-year-old cheerleader at Seminole Ridge High School, and she follows a strict daily routine to keep her symptoms at bay. 

“Before I leave home for school, I check myself and take insulin with breakfast. I check again before lunchtime and before practice after school,” Teresa said. “I take as much (insulin) as I need. Then I do the same thing at dinner and before bed.”

American Heritage alum Brett Schneider has a similar lifestyle. As a 6 foot, 240 pound right-hander and first baseman, Brett was a star of the baseball team who lost 40 pounds trying to control his diabetes. 

“I didn’t eat a lot of sweets or anything,” he said. “Most people think it’s how much sugar you eat. It’s not. It’s about the carbohydrates.”

Coaches came to Brett’s aid, watching him closely for signs of dizziness or weakness.

“There were a couple times in the beginning where we’d say, ‘You don’t look too well’ and we’d sit him down,” Coach Carm Mazza said. “We’d give him the day off. We were tuned into it.”

Teresa’s disclosure of her diabetes to faculty members at school has allowed her to face her disease rather than hide it. She speaks once a day with the school nurse, and her cheerleading coaches and trainers frequently check on her status. 

“She’s really not different from any other kid at all,” Joann Cioffoletti, Teresa’s mother, said. “You have to make people aware of what you’re dealing with, but it certainly doesn’t mean you have to stop doing things.”

Although Teresa and Brett’s cases are heredity, 95 percent of new diabetes diagnoses are type 2 diabetes—a preventable disease that has seen explosive growth among the nation’s youth.

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