Diabetic shooter Ethan Lowry shares advice for shooters who suffer with the disease, as well as those that might be able to help
Diabetes is an invisible condition. At any shooting ground in the country, you’re unlikely to tell if someone is a diabetic, but this doesn’t make the condition any less serious. Through no fault of their own, members of the shooting community, and even much of the general public, have a limited knowledge of the condition but if uncontrolled, diabetes can cause many serious health problems and even death. Have you ever wondered why your application form for a shooting permit asks about health conditions like diabetes and epilepsy?
In my school days, I was asking to get out of every single class to go to the water fountain because I had the most uncontrollable thirst. I was consuming upwards of six litres a day. I went to see the GP who made the working diagnosis with a few minutes and thirteen years later, I inject myself at least four times daily and test my blood-sugar levels at regular intervals.
Diabetes is a condition whereby the body can’t produce enough insulin or ceases to produce any at all. This means that when diabetics eat carbohydrates (breads, cereals, sugar, buns and sweets) their blood sugar levels rise. This is called hyperglycaemia and over time this can lead to blindness, nerve damage, stroke, kidney damage and more. On the flip side is a symptom called hypoglcycaemia, which means the person’s blood sugars are lower than the normal range. It is at this stage a diabetic would require something sugary to eat or drink in order to raise their blood sugar levels, so some shooters have good excuses for carrying around sugary drinks and chocolate on shoots.
To ensure blood sugars are within safe levels, diabetics have to test their bloods every day – usually before each meal, before exercise and when they go out shooting. Normal blood sugar levels range from between 4.0 – 8.0mmol/L depending on when the person has eaten last. High blood sugars would measure anything above 8.0mmol/L, whereas low blood sugars would be anything below 4.0mmol/L.
Testing can be tedious at the best of times but being within a sporting context testing is of even more important as the risk of experiencing low blood sugars is substantially higher. Some may find this process embarrassing, maybe for fear of holding up proceedings or drawing attention to one self. The clays aren’t going to go anywhere so if you need to test between stands by all means do so – you have a duty of care to yourself and to others. Some shooting grounds are cleaner and better kept than others, so if you need testing sugars make sure you have access to hand wipes or toilets to clean hands before testing.
The main problem with diabetes is that the condition can become uncontrolled very easily and individuals can become very complacent in regards to their treatment. Signs and symptoms can be easily missed or brushed under the carpet. This adds to to the difficulty of controlling the condition. Looking at the signs and symptoms of both high and low blood sugars we can see immediately how they can affect not only the performance of a diabetic clay shooter but more importantly the safety of both the shooter and anyone who is with them. Worst case scenario someone could get seriously injured or worse. It can also be easy to mistake said shooters symptoms for more ominous ones – for example, how many of the symptoms above have you seen in someone who has had a little too much alcohol on a night out?
Within a club setting or an official shoot, care should be taken to find out which shooters may be affected by conditions such as diabetes. But the responsibility lies as much with the diabetic individual as it does with club or shoot officials. Depending on the level of shoot, the location, the organisation who runs it, there may, or may not be suitable facilities in which to purchase food or drinks. In some small county shoots there may not be anything at all. It is of paramount importance that within these situation diabetic shooters always make sure they have adequate provisions on hand. This is especially applicable when taking part in sporting shoots where competitors are sometimes on their feet for considerable time and walking long distances between stands.
Equally important is allowing time to administer medication (injections and/or tablets) typically this is done around meals and possibly snacks. As a diabetic shooter it is important not to skip this for sake of getting to your stand on time. If you do it could wreck havoc with your sugar levels later on. Your health comes first in all instances.