Sam is a professional AFL player and became a father for the first time in late 2019. Football seems to have been passed down through the family as Sam’s dad played and coached 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.
To find out more, we spoke to Sam about his journey with diabetes on and off the field, from fingerpricks to Dexcom G5 Mobile Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system and even recently upgrading to the NEW Dexcom G6 CGM!
Q: Can you tell us a little about you?
Growing up, my family travelled a lot as my old man, Jeff, was playing and later on, coaching football across Australia. I used to follow him around everywhere. When I was about 14 years old, I became obsessed with the idea of playing professional football. I would train with everyone and then stay out on the track for hours after everyone had left. It’s all I wanted to do. When I was 17 and we were living on the Sunshine Coast (QLD), I would travel to Brisbane three times a week to train and compete.
Eventually, in 2007 I got drafted to the Western Bulldogs. After this, I moved to Melbourne to play professionally and live out my dream.
In 2009, I had to get surgery on my groin and shortly after this, I was diagnosed with T1D. I didn’t let this stop me, but I knew I just had to adjust to finger pricking to test my blood glucose levels before doing anything. I didn’t know CGM technology was around at that time.
Q: How did you initially find out about CGM?
I met a lot of people living with T1D and just about every person I met, would ask me if I had a CGM. So naturally, I did some research and spoke to more people about what they were using and I tried to figure out what would suit me, with training loads and how much activity I do. That’s when I came across Dexcom and I decided it was the best one for what I need, as the fact that my family can track my levels and get alerts is great!
Q: Do your levels differ on game days, training and when at home? If so, how do you manage this?
For me, depending on what I’m doing, for example if I have a game, main session, pre-season session or am at home, I need to manage my diabetes differently. For example, during the season, we train on field 2-3 days a week and do weights 2-3 days also. Whereas during pre-season, the training is a lot more rigorous and taxing on the body, so I’ve found that the type of exercise I do affects my diabetes differently too.
I manage my diabetes with multiple daily injections (MDI). Previously, I used Dexcom G5 Mobile to monitor my levels. I liked the size of it and the technology that comes along with it. It’s amazing. I love that it sends notifications to my wife and family that enable them to also keep track of what my levels are doing.
The Dexcom Follow app also made Dexcom an attractive option to me, as it sends data to my followers, giving me and my family peace of mind with everything I do.
A few months ago however, I upgraded to Dexcom G6 CGM.
Q. How was the process of upgrading from Dexcom G5 Mobile to Dexcom G6? What features from Dexcom G6 are most important for your diabetes management?
Upgrading was as simple as downloading the Dexcom G6 app and syncing the sensor code via a photo. I found it really easy, the way of putting it on.
I also like using Dexcom G6 due to fact that there are no fingerpricks or calibrating*. It is amazing. Also, Dexcom alerts are great, particularly when I’m asleep or after a game when my glucose levels might drop. It just helps my peace of mind in being able to sleep with ease.
Another feature is the Dexcom CLARITY platform. It gives me so much insight into what my glucose levels do during training and games. It also gives me a ‘time in range’ indicator which allows me to know how my sugars are doing during different types of exercise, or when resting. It’s also great that Dexcom G6 will hold my data and backfill when I’m back in range of my phone.
Q: How does Dexcom G6 assist in an average day in the life of a professional AFL player?
Dexcom G6 helps on game day as adrenaline plays a big part in my glucose levels then and causes my levels to rise. At game times, I always put extra tape around my stomach to hold the sensor and transmitter down and stop it from getting knocked out during contact. Dexcom G6 is so small – I seriously don’t even notice that I have it on most of the time.
Early on I would test my levels every time I came off the ground, now I simply have to check at halftime and that’s it. I also get a lot of peace of mind from Dexcom; as I don’t have to check my glucose levels before running out onto the ground, going to bed at night or walking the dog – it’s just so easy. I have never let diabetes get in the way of anything I wanted to do or achieve, but with the help of Dexcom, I can do it with less stress.
It also helps with the day-to-day. Recently, I remember being woken up to an alert – I was going low. Because of the alert I caught it before my levels dropped too low. It woke me up and I was able to level myself out. With Dexcom, I’m also able to put my baby boy to sleep without my sugars dropping and the alarm going off and waking him up. Around that time and in the lead up, Dexcom lets me be extra particular in what I do.
Q: How would you sum up your experience with Dexcom G6 in 10 words or less?
For me, it’s been life changing.
Q: What advice would you give to others looking into CGM?
I would say read and learn about your options. If you are able to, the technology is amazing – how simple they make your life is incredible.
Q: And why did you choose AMSL Diabetes?
Initially, I just wanted to get involved where I could after seeing AMSL Diabetes at some JDRF events in NSW. But after chatting to the team at AMSL Diabetes, it has turned into so much more. I love working with AMSL Diabetes and am excited to continue working with them to get our little projects up and running in the future.
Always read the label and use only as directed. Read the warnings available on www.amsldiabetes.com.au/resources before purchasing. Consult your healthcare professional to see which product is right for you.
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“Early on I would test my levels every time I came off the ground, now I simply have to check at halftime and that’s it. I also get a lot of peace of mind from Dexcom; as I don’t have to check my sugars before running out onto the ground, going to bed at night or walking the dog – it’s just so easy.”
Verity has been playing professional netball since debuting in 2012. Currently, she plays for West Coast Fever and is due to play in the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final this year on October 18, 2020! Verity also lives with type 1 diabetes, and uses Dexcom G6 to manage her levels on and off the court.
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