The study reports that participants' athletic prowess was sapped by low blood glucose, a condition known as hypoglycaemia. Their cognitive abilities also declined as a result.
"Physical activity itself is unfortunately one of the factors that can cause this dip in blood sugar to occur," says lead researcher Michael Riddell, associate professor in York's School of Kinesiology & Health Science.
"Parents tend to get quite concerned about this, understandably so," says Riddell. "They wonder, 'should I have my child enrolled in sports at all? Is vigorous activity safe?' Our results show that those with diabetes can compete on equal ground provided they learn to manage their condition."
The study is the first to examine these interactions in a real-life setting. Researchers outfitted participants with 24-7 glucose monitors during a week-long diabetes sports camp, testing their skills in tennis, basketball or soccer at various times during the day and recording blood sugar levels.
Researchers found that sport skill performance was highest when blood glucose values were in a "normal" glycemic range. During hyperglycaemia – or elevated blood sugar – results were only slightly reduced. This occurred nearly universally across all participants, however results suggest the degree to which one's sport performance deteriorates depends on the individual.
"Some subjects showed only minor reductions in performance with hypoglycaemia while others showed much greater impairment," Riddell says. "This could be related to the level of blood glucose concentration, the rate at which glucose drops, and the individual's capacity to maintain focus in the face of all these factors."
Regular exercise is known to be beneficial for people with diabetes, but can make glycemic control challenging. Adding to the confusion is that the symptoms of low or high blood glucose are often masked by exercise, because they're so similar: increased heart rate, sweating, shakiness, fatigue and dehydration.
"Any obvious issues with performance – poor passing, failed free throws and serves – that are really out of the ordinary should be a warning sign to check blood glucose levels and add carbohydrates," Riddell says.
MEDICA.de; Source: York University