Pär Zetterberg's insulin shock
Tribute to Par Zätterberg
Former soccer pro Pär Zetterberg, twice voted player of the year in Belgium, is now 40 and a youth scout for his former club, Anderlecht. He found out he had T1DM in 1990, when he was 19 and a player at Anderlecht. He recalls an incident in 2000 when he, at 29, passed out from severe hypoglycemia.
Zetterberg was driving home from soccer training along the busy E19 highway outside Brussels, Belgium. He remembers feeling increasingly nauseous.
Swedish international Pär Zetterberg
Pär Zetterberg at Anderlecht
I understood straight away it was 'insulin shock' or hypoglycemia, he says.
My blood sugar was too low. I had to stop the car and get out.
A short time later he was found unconscious by his car and was being helped by a team of firefighters. They had been alerted by colleagues who, by chance, passed the spot where Zetterberg had passed out.
I remember stopping my car and I know I woke up in an ambulance. Between the two incidents, everything is black, he says.
Zetterberg, as a professional athlete, maintained meticulous control over his blood glucose levels and insulin doses.Illness and insulin
One of the reasons this happened to me, he explains,
is I'd been suffering from an upset stomach for a few days. Illness can affect a diabetic that way. I had not given myself the wrong dose of insulin, nor skipped meals.
Vigorous exercise of the sort demanded by professional sport can play havoc with blood sugar levels.
Glucose stored in liver
When you start to exercise, your body uses the glucose stored in your muscles and liver. As these stores runs low, your body uses glucose from your blood, which causes a drop in blood glucose.
The incident on the E19 is not the first time Zetterberg had passed out.
It happened a few times before back home in Sweden, he explains.
I know when it is about to happen, and I react immediately. I stopped the car in good time before I passed out.
Fortunately, he was in a populated area with people who responded swiftly, alerting emergency services as soon as they saw him stretched out by his car.
At the hospital, tests were taken, his blood glucose level checked, and he was soon allowed to leave.
A few days later he was on the field playing 90 demanding minutes in the match between Westerloo and Anderlecht.
Incident in Prague
Zetterberg recalls an another event in his soccer career which could have had serious consequences on his diabetes.
His team, Anderlecht, were playing Slavia Prague at the Strahov stadium in the Czech Republic.
A man dressed in an Anderlecht tracksuit approached stewards near Anderlecht's dressing room, claiming to be delivering bottled water to players. He then set about stealing personal belongings from the Anderlecht players.
Zetterberg, lost his Rolex watch, 1,500 euros in cash and his insulin injections.
That time, the incident ended happily for Zetterberg, though it did result in much negative publicity and embarrassment for the Czech club.
By David Hay Jones