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February 28, 2001

Insulin Pumps

Question from Georgetown, Texas, USA:

My son is 11 and has been interested in the pump, but wants to participate in sports and physical activities. What are the limitations that the pump brings to these activities? Do you know of any college or professional football players that use a pump?


If anything, the insulin pump probably makes participation in sports activities easier for people with diabetes because of the flexibility it provides. I know that there are many college and professional athletes who use pumps. The only names that come to mind are Bill Carlson, who won the Iron Man Triathalon several years ago (see Exercise: The Best Pace is Your Own Pace in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Countdown magazine for a mention of Bill, and hints about exercise). Also, the Olympic swimmer (I think that’s endurance!) Gary Hall has diabetes and is planning to be at our 2001 Conference and Expo. The International Diabetic Athletes Association may be able to give you and your son more information.

To help with your son’s decision, visit the websites of MiniMed, Disetronic, and Animas. In addition see: Is pumping for you? to learn more about the pros and cons of pump use.

Additional comments from Betty Brackenridge, diabetes dietitian:

There are professional and elite amateur athletes in virtually all sports who have type 1 diabetes. Many of them wear insulin pumps for overall control and flexibility. It is not uncommon for them to remove the pump during heavy contact sports like football due to concerns about damage to the pump. The low and very controllable amounts of insulin delivered by the pump, and the fact that pumps use only rapid-acting insulin, often simplify management greatly when insulin needs fall during high periods of activity. I’d suggest getting in contact with the International Diabetic Athletes Association. IDAA maintains a database of members by sport interest and is a great resource for learning the personal experiences — and “tricks of the trade” — of sports men and women with diabetes.