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Chris Pennell: Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a Professional Athlete

Part 1 of 3 - InsulCheck spoke with the inspirational Chris Pennell about his career as a professional rugby player and his journey in managing type 1 diabetes.

In this weeks blog post, we explore the early stages of Chris' diabetes journey.

Chris Pennell, full-back for the Worcester Warriors, seems an unlikely profile for type 1 diabetes. Yet, this 30-year-old father of two has not only learnt to manage his insulin injections and the demands of being a professional athlete, but now feels that diabetes has had a positive affect on his career.

It has been over a decade since Chris was diagnosed with diabetes. During his second season at the Warriors, a routine blood test in pre-season training showed abnormally high blood glucose results. The following day, a finger prick test confirmed that Chris had type 1 diabetes.

"The symptoms all fell into place and made more sense. I was lucky that it was found when it was and I didn't suffer any complications. Many others are not so fortunate," Chris recalls.

Early detection and treatment of diabetes is crucial. It can help to reduce the risk of serious complications such as premature heart disease and stroke, blindness, limb amputations, and kidney failure. Symptoms associated with Type 1 Diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst

  • Unusually high levels of urination

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Loss of muscular bulk and unexplained weight loss

Chris expressed that he felt his symptoms were somewhat masked by his career, as a professional rugby player.

"I can't say I ever felt terrible during training, I felt fit and fast but when I got home later in the day, I'd basically pass out on the sofa only to wake for dinner and a few gallons of water". Pennell mentions.

A constant thirst, tiredness and hunger would be easy to pass off as a day in the life of a professional athlete. However, it was Chris' inability to gain weight that was concerning.

In next weeks blog post, we will be looking at Chris' diabetes management plan. Diabetes management can often be difficult, especially for those with type 1 diabetes. It is therefore crucial to establish what works best for you, to find available support systems and to also seek medical advice, especially in the early stages of diagnosis.

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