Hibernian midfielder Scott Allan has always had to consider his type 1 diabetes when playing football, with his diagnosis coming when he was just three-years-old.
After learning how to manage his condition playing football at school, spells at Dundee United and West Bromwich Albion followed before he joined Hibernian in 2014.
Footballers like Allan are leading the way for young children with diabetes looking to enter a career in the sport, and he insists that: “as long as you manage your diabetes you can do whatever you want.”
Allan says: “There have been a lot of athletes throughout the years that have been at the top of the game with diabetes. You need to live as much of a normal life as possible, don’t let people tell you otherwise.”
Blood sugar control
Keeping control of his blood sugar levels became increasingly challenging for Allan growing up, but hypos weren’t often an issue. His challenge came with keeping his readings down
“I started off playing football with my friends – I used to have a little bar of chocolate before I played so my blood sugar didn’t drop. At around 12 years old, when I had to play at specific times, I started playing at a much higher intensity.
“I stopped taking chocolate bars before games as whenever I was running around the pitch later in games it caused me to cramp because my blood sugar was going too high
“For men, it’s just around having a blood sugar of between 4-6 mmol/l before playing and I would take insulin without even having sugar.
“Some people find that really hard to believe. This is to compensate for the adrenaline rush and playing in front of the fans.
“It’s not really been that challenging in terms of having hypos, the issue for me has always been keeping my blood sugar under 10 mmol/l for a full 90 minutes. If it went high it would cause me to feel fatigued early o, which doesn’t benefit me or the team.”
Limitations from diabetes
Playing in midfield, Allan is used to exerting a considerable amount of energy, often as much as anybody else on the pitch.
However, he has never had to alter his style to adapt to his diabetes management , a mentally which stems back to his childhood.
“I run about as much as any player in a game. I’ve always felt like I had to do more, so I started testing my blood sugar before a game and there were always adrenaline levels that would cause my blood sugars to spike.
“I went to school with a lot of other diabetics and they used to think they were really hard done by. That used to get on my nerves because I just wanted to play football. I was just telling everyone that you need to manage it and you’ll be fine.”
Allan believes there is a lack of diabetes awareness in the United Kingdom which results in some misconceptions regarding the condition.
“I still think more needs to be done. I always need to explain exactly how my diabetes is managed. A lot of people think that diabetes is a set way for somebody, but everyone is different and their bodies act differently.”
“A lot of people just think that you can’t touch any foods with sugar i, or have a (alcoholic) drink. People will tell you “Oh, you can’t have that.” But as long as you manage it, you can basically eat anything you want.”
- Read the full interview with Scott Allan.