A professional AFL player and father, football seems to have been passed down through the family for Sam J. Reid with his dad playing and coaching football across Australia. For Sam, this exposure meant he was always around the game and whenever he got the chance, he would follow his dad around on game days and training sessions. Eventually, he was drafted into the professional’s league and a few years into his career, a type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis followed.
“I was diagnosed as a 20-year-old back in 2010 whilst I was playing at the Western Bulldog’s. After having major groin surgery, I lost a lot of weight and was eventually diagnosed with type 1,” he explained to Men’s Health. “It was a huge shock at the time but luckily for myself I was in such a good environment with the best doctors and support that I was able to take my time to learn and adjust to what my new life as someone living with type 1 diabetes would look like.”
To find out how it impacts his career and day-to-day life, we spoke to Sam about his journey with diabetes on and off the field.
What is it like living with diabetes?
You are always making decisions about what to eat, how much insulin do I need, have I drunk enough, how long will I be away from home etc. It takes a massive toll on you mentally. And not only yourself but the people around you. My wife Elissa has been amazing with always finding the best things to help with my diet, glucose regulation etc.
How did it affect your training and career?
It made me a lot more prepared. The main issue that I had was the weight I was able to put on in any given week. I could change 4-5kg in a week and it’s just insane trying to play football with those fluctuations. It took me several years of tinkering with foods to find a routine that worked for me. And eventually I did after a couple of major adjustments. But in the end when living with type 1 diabetes, you really need to find what works for you. It will never ever be perfect.
How do you manage your diabetes?
I currently wear a Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device which when you’re talking everyday living and peace of mind when you jump into bed has been an absolute life changer. I now have a two-year-old son Elijah who keeps me busy so to be able to give him all my attention and not worry about doing fingerpricks and having to leave him for a bit to test my blood glucose levels makes a huge difference in how our time is spent.
What impact does it have on your mental health?
My biggest fear with diabetes was having hypoglycaemia whilst I was sleeping and not waking up. Until I got onto the CGM technology I would wake up every night at 1:30am to check my sugars and again at 5:30. It was a crazy routine given sleep is so important when playing sport. Mentally it is draining. Unless you live with type 1 diabetes or are caring for somebody with type 1 it would be hard to understand what I and my fellow type 1s go through on a daily basis. But in saying that I’m not one to feel sorry for myself. It’s an invisible disease and I have been able to do anything I want whether it’s travel, sport, enjoying time with friends I won’t allow it to hold me back.