Ex-Super League prop Danny Sculthorpe bares all on diabetes trauma as a rugby league player

NOT many people can say they have made it as a rugby league player, not least one that has suffered with diabetes since being a teenager.

With Hull FC’s Cam Scott one such player, former Super League prop forward Danny Sculthorpe – who enjoyed spells at Wigan, Castleford, Wakefield and Huddersfield during a 15-year career – was the first to document his troubles in the summer game.

Now, Sculthorpe has spoken exclusively to League Express about the hardships he faced every day – and particularly when he had to prepare for a fixture.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had. The operations and sepsis have been so difficult, but diabetes is the toughest thing I have ever had,” Sculthorpe told League Express.

“It’s on your mind 24/7. I do talks in front of 200/300 people and all you are worried about is your blood sugar going too low during the talk. You don’t want your blood sugar high either because it makes your mouth dry but as a rugby player it was really tough.

“It was tougher than I’ve ever spoken about. I would be testing my blood in a morning, during the drive to matches, during the warm-up, taking my blood machine out into the dugout.

“I knew my blood sugar would go through the roof because of the adrenaline. My blood could start at 8 (mmol/L) and go to 28 (mmol/L) at the end of the game and that’s just because of adrenaline. I would take insulin so that would be working, my blood sugars would go down but then I would go hypo (hypoglycaemic) during the night.

“It was exactly the same every single game but I never really complained about it as I had to get on with it. I’ve been hypo a few times on the field and been close to passing out but it would usually go the other way.

“What happens if your blood sugar goes up, you take insulin and that drains you of energy. But then when I didn’t take insulin, your blood sugar goes up and that drains you of energy as well.

“It’s catch 22 – what’s best? Your blood sugar going high or going hypo on the field? If your blood sugar goes high you can manage but if you go hypo you lose consciousness. I tried to look after myself the best I could and drank a lot of water.”

At the age of 15, Sculthorpe was diagnosed with the disease after a traumatic injury whilst playing the sport he loves.

“I think I did well really, there was no other professional player who was diabetic. I had dislocated my knee playing and the shock and trauma of that injury is what brought the diabetes on.

“I wasn’t diabetic until I dislocated my knee and the trauma stopped my pancreas from producing insulin.

“I had just signed for Leeds Rhinos too so I went over to live with the family in Leeds and struggled with my diagnosis. I started eating a lot of carbs with pasta, rice and bread and put a lot of weight on.

“Nine months into that three-year deal at Leeds and I got released. I then got released from Warrington where I was massively overweight and really unfit.

“I gave up rugby for quite a bit and then ended up signing a three-year deal with Rochdale Hornets. I went back to live with my parents and I felt more comfortable.

“I had cut down the carbs and got a full-time job with my brother playing the best rugby of my life and then after three years I signed for Wigan, one of the biggest clubs in the world.”

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