The Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off in Japan today and here at JDRF we could not be more thrilled that Henry Slade, who has type 1 diabetes, will be showing the world that a diagnosis does not need to stop anyone realising their sporting dreams.
The 26-year-old centre for England was diagnosed with type diabetes aged 18, the same age he signed his first professional rugby contract with Exeter Chiefs.
At a JDRF One Fun Run in Tonbridge in June, Henry spoke about how he had to get used to what happened to his blood glucose levels when the adrenalin kicked in on match days: “When I first started playing rugby after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I thought my blood glucose levels would drop.
“Instead the opposite happened and the adrenalin during the game caused them to spike massively. It went against my gut instinct to have injections before a game but it has been something I have learnt I need to do before a match.
“On the day of a match I try and treat myself to a lie-in and a full-English breakfast. Then, before the game, I’ll eat ravioli or another type of pasta to get loads of energy from the carbohydrate. After a game, depending on whatever the food is at the ground we’re playing at, I’ll eat something like a roast.
“I tend not to let diabetes get in the way of what I eat – I eat whatever I want to at the time and inject accordingly. I try to live as normal life as I can, because that is what I am able to do.
“I test my blood glucose levels as much as I can before a game – 4 or 5 times during warm up. At half time, it is the first thing I do. Depending on what my glucose levels are, I then have 15 minutes to do what is needed.
“Stress and nerves before a game also increase blood glucose levels. Sometimes it feels like you are low when you are nervous. You feel shaky – the feeling you will all know if you have type 1. The thing that puts my mind at ease is to do a check so I know what my levels are, and this calms me down a lot.
“Injuries mean I do less exercise. When I broke my leg I didn’t realise this and I was giving myself the same injections as when I was fit so my levels were really high for a couple of weeks before I realised I had to change that.
“I didn’t have type 1 when I was growing up and my hero was Jonny Wilkinson, who as a young lad playing fly half, was a big inspiration for me.”
Henry Slade will no doubt be a massive inspiration for anyone with type 1 diabetes – not only hoping to pursue a career in sport but also not letting it stop them from doing anything they want.
You can see more of Henry Slade talking about playing rugby with the condition in this video from England Rugby.