“Don’t Get Sidelined with Diabetes”:  Understanding Perceived Challenges, Strategies, and Desired Resources for High Level Athletes with Type 1 Diabetes

Presentation Number: SUN 279
Date of Presentation: April 2nd, 2017

Stephanie Dizon*1, Margo Rowan2, Janine Charisse Malcolm1 and Erin Joanne Keely3
1University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, 2Rowan Research and Evaluation, Ottawa, ON, Canada, 3Univ of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada



Athletes with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) face unique challenges making it difficult for health care providers to offer concise recommendations. Moreover, little is known about patient preferences for diabetes management during high level and competitive exercise. We undertook a qualitative study to further understand the perceived challenges, strategies, and desired resources for management of high level athletes with T1D.


To determine patient perspectives on challenges, strategies, and desired resources for optimal glycemic control in high level athletes with T1D.


A qualitative design using focus groups was selected. A sample of 6-10 participants was recruited to participate in each of three, 1.5 hour sessions focusing on experiences in managing diabetes, supports, and desired resources. Sessions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed iteratively among team members using NVivo 11 software.


The 16 participants from two (of three planned) focus groups included 8 males, 8 females; aged 19-55 years (mean 39 years). Preliminary findings suggest that participants used mainly trial and error to individually manage blood sugars around physical activities. They reported most often relying on themselves, an endocrinologist or the internet for support. While many participants were familiar with the availability of print material and Internet websites, they would prefer to rely less on these resources and more on friends/peers with T1D, mobile Apps, and their family physician. Peer support or a mentorship network was a strongly supported concept with suggestions provided for recruitment and process.

Perceived challenges included the variation in blood glucose levels with different types of activity (aerobic versus anaerobic), hyperglycemia due to elevated adrenaline levels, and difficulties with glucose monitoring during activity. Lack of awareness and education of coaches were highlighted as perceived barriers. Positive strategies for glucose management with exercise included frequent glucose checks and correcting where needed, as well as modification of the type of activity (eg. resistance training followed by aerobic exercise) or altering the level of intensity.


These findings represent a valuable needs assessment to underpin strategies to develop appropriate patient-centered resources for the athlete with T1D.


Nothing to Disclose: SD, MR, JCM, EJK