How MLS star is winning diabetes battle

FFT finds out how Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris is thriving on the pitch, despite suffering from Type 1 diabetes

Footballers often have to overcome setbacks on their journey to the top, but very few have to battle a genetic opponent from birth.

Seattle Sounders star Jordan Morris was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine. The condition means that the young forward’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin – which results in high blood sugar levels.

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“Glucose provides us with the energy to do things,” the club’s head athletic trainer, Chris Cornish, tells FFT. “When glucose is too high you produce insulin to lower those glucose levels. Jordan has to manually monitor his levels.”

The 22-year-old isn't your average footballer. He postponed turning professional to pursue a college degree at Stanford Univesity, before joining Seattle after completing his studies. His headstrong personality also means he hasn't allowed diabetes to stop him in his tracks.

"When I got diabetes I made the decision that I wasn't going to let it stand in the way of me becoming a professional athlete," he said.

Morris eats set meals and follows nutritional rules to control the diabetes. “If you eat a lot of sugar or carbohydrates before the game your blood sugar can get out of whack. 

“I make sure I don’t skip meals, and I take insulin 15 minutes before I eat. That way it has time to kick in.”

He's also been given a boost by the development of a new piece of technology, which means he no longer has to manually check his blood sugar levels prior to every game.

"Before games, I used to get my blood glucose levels checked basically every 30 minutes," he said. "It’s something not a lot of people ever have to worry about. But that number, for me, is my green light to play. But having to monitor my glucose made it difficult to get into a rhythm leading up to a game.

"After I signed my contract with Seattle, I was introduced to this device called a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM). It checks my blood glucose level automatically every five minutes, and then sends the information to my phone or smartwatch. All of those questions and worries I used to have about how diabetes would hold me back? I didn’t have to worry about them anymore."

Morris also keeps a bag of sweets with him at all times to prevent his blood sugar levels from dropping too low, while the Sounders’ coaches now have a clever way of ensuring he does not fall ill on the pitch.

“We’ve developed a special sign that Jordan can signal to the bench if he feels his blood sugar is dropping,” Cornish adds. “That way we can get him what he needs on the field.”

He now hopes to inspire children who have been diagnosed with the condition and show them they can follow in his footsteps and achieve their dreams.

"People contact me on social media and say they didn't realise I had diabetes until they saw my tattoo (he has T1D imprinted on his right forearm) - hopefully I can show that if you work hard you can still get to where you want to be."

Morris 1-0 diabetes.

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