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Zverev revealed that he suffers from diabetes and created a foundation to combat the disease, one of the ten leading causes of death in the world

The diabetes it is, according to World Health Organization reports, one of the ten leading causes of death in the world. The number of people with this disease went from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. And in 2019, likewise, 1.5 million deaths were a direct consequence of this condition. At first glance, it would seem that diabetes and sports (especially high performance) do not speak the same language, however, with medication and specific care, they are compatible. In fact, in the last hours the German tennis player Alexander Zverevnumber 2 in the world, revealed that he has type 1 diabetes. It is not the first case: a few years ago, Juan Cruz Aragone, from Mar del Plata (nationalized American), reported, in THE NATIONhis story on the professional tour suffering from diabetes, having to take insulin in the middle of games.

“When I was little I didn’t think much about this, then more and more. I want to show that you can go very far with this disease. Currently, with a career in tennis and successes, I feel safe to go public”, said Zverev, Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo 2020. Born in Hamburg 25 years ago and diagnosed with diabetes at 4, Zverev announced the creation of a foundation -with his name- that will support children with diabetes and will provide medicines to those suffering from this disease in developing countries.

“I want to be an example for people who suffer from the disease, also a support for children who can still avoid getting diabetes with an active life and proper prevention. I think I am privileged because I always wanted to play tennis, travel the world and I got it”, said Zverev, who is inactive on the circuit as he is rehabilitating from a ligament injury he suffered during the Roland Garros semifinals against the Spaniard. Rafael Nadal (June 3), which made him lose the chance to play at Wimbledon and, probably, he will also be absent from the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year, which will take place in New York from the 29th of this month.

The main types of diabetes are what is called juvenile, Type 1 (the one Zverev suffers from), in which the pancreas does not produce insulin. And Type 2, which adults generally suffer from, where insulin exists but cannot act because there are receptors that malfunction, that are diseased. Although sports and illness are compatible, care must also be taken, particularly with the doses of insulin that are applied; they cannot be exceeded. Athletes use so-called insulin pumps, devices that can be attached to the body and that, through a catheter and a cannula that is implanted under the skin, regulate and administer the amount, depending on the level.

JC Aragone, diabetic tennis player, wearing the patch that helps him measure his blood sugar level and if he needs to take insulin during matchesInstagram

With less popularity than Zverev, but with a similar -or even stronger- experience, Aragone (27 years old, current 497th in the ranking, 224th in 2018), born in Mar del Plata in 1995, member of a family dedicated to supermarkets, who started playing tennis at the age of 5 at the Club Náutico (the same place where Guillermo Vilas trained), recounted his experiences on the circuit. His biggest challenge was overcoming a severe illness that left him in a coma for two weeks.

When I was 16 years old. Aragone was in Miami preparing for a tour she would have in South America. Due to the high temperatures and solar radiation in that part of Florida, a doctor recommended that he take a medication so that the protective creams would not harm his skin, especially since he had acne. “It was worse. I ended up in the hospital. I thought I was dying”, recalled Aragone. The medicine affected him, he started with a fever and ended up hospitalized, with kidney and liver failure. “I felt like my body was burning inside. They put wet towels on me and steam came out. He had blisters everywhere. I was airlifted, hospitalized, and in a coma for two weeks. What do I remember? No problem. It’s like I went to sleep, you wake up and that’s it. It was all due to an allergy to the medication”, the tennis player told LA NACION a few years ago.

Diabetes is one of the world's leading and fastest growing health problems.
Diabetes is one of the world’s leading and fastest growing health problems.Shutterstock

After medical discharge, Aragone continued with treatments for more than a year, away from sports. At 17 and a half years old, when he was able to play tennis again, he began to have strange symptoms. “He was dehydrated, drinking water all the time, my head hurt a lot, I wanted to go to the bathroom all the time,” he said. After different studies, he was diagnosed with… diabetes. He was informed, took the precautions and followed his life in American university tennis. Over the years he came to the ATP Tour, taking many precautions. “I have a device that gives me insulin, obviously I can’t play with it because it’s heavy, it’s like having a phone in my pants, so I have to disconnect it, but I have another connected that reads my sugar level. Between the changes of sides I check how I am and if I need to I have a needle, I give myself an insulin injection and I continue”.

Aragone, at the time helped in training and strategy by Franco Davin and Marcelo Albamonte in Key Biscayne, also lived unpleasant moments. Like the one that happened to him at the US Open 2017, after qualifying and before debuting at the main draw against South African Kevin Anderson: “They told me that I was not going to be able to give myself an injection on the field because if they saw each other on television it would look bad, they would think that I was doping. Nonsense!”

Alexander Zverev, during the last Roland Garros tournament
Alexander Zverev, during the last Roland Garros tournamentTHOMAS SAMSON-AFP

“Diabetes and sports get along; diabetics who can do physical activities control their disease better. Many professional athletes with diabetes, by training every day, reduce their insulin consumption and improve. And they have less risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases”, told LA NACION, at the time, the doctor Roberto Pedrocardiologist and sports medicine specialist.

Sascha Zverev’s recent announcement on Instagram had an immediate reaction and acceptance in the racket world. And one of the most heartfelt comments was that of Aragone himself, of course: “I love this. I am so happy to see her using her platform to help the diabetes community! Congratulations brother”. Also Novak Djokovic He celebrated the words of the German and the creation of the foundation. Pointed out, at another time, for the accusations of gender violence made by his ex-girlfriend, this time Zverev (winner of 19 titles and finalist of the US Open 2020) was in the news but for a worthy cause that, in addition, tries to raise awareness.

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