In 1981, Chris Dudley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16. He never thought for one second, however, that the disease would interfere with his dream to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Today, Dudley is enjoying his 12th year in the NBA.
Work Ethic On and Off the Court
Dudley, 34, plays center for the New York Knicks, and is considered one of the NBA’s top defensive players. His work ethic as an athlete on the court is paralleled by a work ethic as a type 1 off the court. Dudley sticks by a strict regimen of insulin, exercise and diet. He tests a minimum of four times a day, always managing to keep his blood sugars around 100 mg/dl.
During the basketball season, however, managing diabetes requires a little more attention. A normal game day for Dudley includes waking up, testing, taking a shot of Humalog insulin, eating breakfast, and then going to the shoot-around with his Knicks teammates. After the shoot-around, Dudley goes back to the hotel, tests and then takes a nap. After the nap, he tests again, takes another shot of Humalog, eats lunch and then leaves for the game around 4:45 p.m. Upon arriving at the arena, he tests again. If he is too low, he eats a snack or drinks some juice. He then tests one hour before gametime. At halftime, he always tests in the locker room, and then once again after the game. Upon arriving back at the hotel, he eats dinner, tests shortly after his meal, and takes a shot of Lente before going to bed.
“With diabetes, it’s helpful when you get into a routine,” says Dudley. “It’s the times when that routine is changed, and you’re getting into hotels at 3 or 4 in the morning, that you really have to watch yourself.”
Dudley emphasizes that at gametime, he prefers to have his blood sugars around the “fine line” of 180 mg/dl.
“Activity and stress can sometimes make my sugars get as high as 240 or 300 by halftime,” he says. “On the other hand, if they are around 150 before the game, they may go way down by halftime.”
Dudley admits that he has had lows during NBA games. Fortunately, the Knicks trainer keeps a test kit on the bench for Dudley.
“If I’m low, I’ll usually drink juice, but if I’m really low, I have this drink called Gatorlode, which contains about 70 grams of carbohydrates.”
In the offseason, Dudley says that control is easier. He stays in shape, insisting that exercise is beneficial in keeping his insulin requirements down. The offseason affords him the luxury of waiting a half-hour or so to work out if his blood sugars are too low.
“You can’t do that when you have shoot-arounds and practices and games during the regular season.”
Chris Dudley Basketball Camp
Dudley gives back to the diabetes community by running the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp in Vernonia, Oregon.
“My sister and wife and I were brainstorming about doing a basketball camp, and we got some information on diabetes camps in the Portland area,” says Dudley. “We decided to put the two together, and in 1996, we started the camp. We take 64 kids each year.”
Equipped with a full staff of nurses, doctors, dietitians and basketball coaches, the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp is an educational and fun experience where young children with diabetes can learn about basketball, proper diabetes control, and how to be a young person just like everybody else.
Dudley says that role models like his uncle and National Hockey League hall of famer Bobby Clarke, both type 1s, helped him realize that if you have diabetes you can still do what anybody else wants to do.
“If you want to play sports, you can play sports,” says Dudley. “Don’t let diabetes stop you. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take care of your condition. Diabetes is a serious disease, and you need to learn how to take care of yourself to deal with it.”
For more information on the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp, call (503) 626-4007.