How Super Bowl LVIII Shone a Light on Type 1 Diabetes

Super Bowl LVIII just wrapped, with the Kansas City Chiefs pulling out a tense overtime win, 25-22 over the San Francisco 49ers. It was a thrilling game in and of itself, but it also brought a dose of inspiration to type 1 diabetes patients.

Noah Gray, a third-year tight end with the Chiefs, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was in college at Duke University. This came after some scary symptoms, including weight loss, vision loss, and a four-day hospital stay with extremely high blood sugar.

He shared his story with shortly before the Super Bowl, explaining that he had to learn the ins and outs of the disease, including testing his blood sugar and injecting insulin. However, it helped him become more disciplined, the type of discipline required in a championship-winning athlete.

He said, “It’s helped me mature. When I was a freshman, I was eating pizza every night. I was eating terribly like I did my whole life because that is just naturally how I ate, but then when I got (Type 1), I realized I feel so much better when I’m eating cleaner foods. So, I think it helped me mature in my eating habits. What I’m putting in my body as an athlete, I think that helped me out a lot.”

These days, he’s upgraded to an insulin pump and a device that constantly monitors his blood sugar. He also has to be careful about when he eats to make sure he’s set for a whole game, and he often checks his blood sugar levels in the locker room to make sure he’s set.

He told, “It’s very much life or death. Me being able to play football at a high level is really dependent on me making sure that my body feels good blood sugar-wise to go out there. Working hard at managing it and taking that seriously is very, very important.”

Still, Gray encourages young people living with type 1 not to let the disease get in the way or impact their confidence. A story written for the organization Beyond Type 1 highlighted an arranged meeting between Gray and 14-year-old type 1 diabetes patient Shiloh, a huge fan of the tight end’s.

During the meeting, Gray said, “Never give up. Always keep working hard in everything that you do, including your diabetes management. Understand that there are going to be times when your blood sugar goes low, or too high, and you need to step back and get some help for it. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that.”

Type 1 diabetes organization JDRF lauded Gray for the inspiration he provided in the Super Bowl, saying that he was an example of how hard work and access to necessary tools can allow an athlete with the disease to achieve at the highest level.

The organization also highlighted the Super Bowl halftime performer, R&B star Usher. Usher’s son lives with type 1 diabetes, as well, and he raised awareness about the disease, his experience as a parent, and the need for more knowledge leading up to his performance.

JDRF CEO Aaron Kowalski says, “Usher’s advocacy has played a crucial role in raising awareness about type 1 diabetes and the importance of early detection through screening. Educating people about the symptoms of T1D and encouraging them to get screened can help reduce the risk of life-threatening complications and hospitalizations during diagnosis. Additionally, early detection gives families time to plan, prepare, and possibly benefit from a therapy that can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes. We cannot overstate the positive impact of Usher’s efforts.”

So while Gray and Usher entertained the masses during the big game, they also did a little something for the type 1 community.

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