Sammamish lacrosse players manage diabetes during games
June 8, 2010
By Christopher Huber
Sammamish resident Nick Mauzy, 14, has lived with diabetes since he was 5 years old. Just like many Sammamish youth, he grew up playing sports and has managed to keep the disease in check. He is home-schooled, but plays for the Skyline High School club lacrosse team and in the Issaquah Youth Lacrosse League post-season tournaments.
Although he’s among a miniscule amount of young people with type 1 diabetes, Mauzy isn’t alone in local youth sports. He is among a handful of youth lacrosse players who balance the challenges of diabetes with playing a contact sport.
“Most people think of it as kind of a disability; something to prohibit you,” Mauzy said. “It really isn’t. You never back down, and get into what a normal person would do.”
Approximately 23.6 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, which makes up about 7.8 percent of the population, according to the American Diabetes Association. Only 0.22 percent (186,300 people) of the population 20 years and younger have diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. With type II the body doesn’t use insulin properly. About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, according to the association.
The youth lacrosse players with type 1 are able to manage the condition and integrate it into their daily routines through insulin therapy and other treatments.
Tyler Lucas, a junior on the Issaquah High School club team, found out he had diabetes four years ago at a tournament when he passed out and went into a coma. He lost 35 pounds in a week, he said.
“I thought I was really sick,” Tyler said.
Since then, he learned to manage it well enough to stay active on the lacrosse team. He, like his diabetic teammates, Jake and Erik Fritz, has to check blood sugar and eat right before a game and keep a meter on the sidelines. If ever they forget to eat or have a sports drink nearby, they may feel the effects, like dizziness or feeling fatigued or sleepy, Erik said.
“If your blood sugar is low, it’s hard to concentrate,” Tyler said.
The players said they are able to self-regulate their time on the field if needed and ask for a sub if they become tired or weak. Teammates and coaches tend to understand the boys’ circumstances.
“It’s important coaches and players on the team are aware they have type 1,” said Dr. John O’Kane, head team physician for the University of Washington athletic department.
Some people with diabetes make it an excuse not to play, while the handful of kids in local sports leagues refuse to let the disease hold them back, said Charles Mauzy, Nick’s father and IYL co-president.
But just like anyone, exercise and playing sports is important for people with diabetes, O’Kane said. As long as the youth athletes manage their insulin and eat properly, playing lacrosse is a good way to stay fit.
“Exercise is really good for people with diabetes,” O’Kane said.
Like the other youth players, Nick Mauzy downplays the significance of having diabetes while playing a contact sport. He’s managed it so long it’s second-nature.
“Since I got it when I was young, it was pretty easy to transition into it. It’s become a lot easier over time,” Nick said. “You do have to be a little bit mindful of what you’re eating or what your dose is before a game.”
In addition to checking his blood sugar throughout a game, Nick said he has to pay close attention to how much he eats before a game. It’s important to “know your numbers,” Nick said. Diabetics keep track of the amount of sugar in their blood and regulate how much insulin to inject.
“You don’t want to starve yourself but you need energy,” Tyler said.
Jake Fritz, a junior on the Issaquah High School club team, learned he had diabetes in May 2008, he said. His brother, Eric Fritz, a senior, has managed it for more than two years and their father also has diabetes, they said.
“It’s pretty convenient having three players with it (on the same team),” Jake said.
Jake Fritz said it’s a hassle to keep blood sugar level during a game, but it’s worth being able to play the sport they love. It helps to keep a sports drink nearby.
“Usually, I never leave home without candy or juice box,” Nick Mauzy said. “It’s pretty important to have something with you.”
The UW has a diabetic athlete in every sport, O’Kane said, so it’s not an issue for those who manage the disease well.
“You can certainly do it,” he said. “(Diabetics) can be very successful.”
How teammates see it
While being a diabetic athlete has its challenges, those who play alongside them embrace it.
“Some of them are completely fascinated by it,” said Charles Mauzy. Teammates often crowd around a player to watch him prick his finger and check blood sugar.
But others don’t make a big deal out of it and treat them like regular players.
“He probably doesn’t think that he has it when he plays. That just shows how much more he wants to play,” said Nick’s teammate, Ryan Benz. “I bet most of my team doesn’t even know he has it.”
Parents like Stephanie Benz have seen the youth succeed in their sport while staying healthy and agree with their approach.
“It’s something that themselves as an athlete should be able to achieve anything they want in life. It’s one more responsibility that each of these kids have,” said Stephanie Benz, who watches Ryan and Nick play and whose daughter has diabetes.
“I have a lot of respect for kids that have, especially, type 1 diabetes. It’s great for other kids with diabetes to see that you can do it.”
Reporter Christopher Huber can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.