OPINION: Improving Safety in Mason Rec

By: Chris Kernan-Schmidt, contributor

Mason Recreation seems to have some sort of  aversion to proper safety standards when it comes to diabetic athletes. The issue lies in their inability, or rather their unwillingness, to provide proper and relevant life-saving information to club sport safety officers, and to be quite honest, it is scary as a competitive diabetic athlete. Incorrect information, administrators who do not seem to care, and lackluster training are a recipe for disaster – and in this case, a medical emergency.

Athletes with diabetes constantly monitor, check, and regulate their blood glucose levels. It is imperative that there is a strong network of teammates, coaches, and administrators behind them to ensure that should anything go wrong it will be taken care of in a safety-conscious manner. This reassurance is priceless for diabetics. Sadly, Mason does not foster an environment where diabetic athletes can feel safe and assured that they will be taken care of should an emergency occur.

Mason currently requires club sports to have a few players in each Mason  team or sport club undergo first aid training to become designated safety officers. The course teaches the students about basic sports injuries, recognizing heat stroke, etc. When I read the first-aid manual they train with, I noticed it provided two pages of surface-level, sometimes incorrect, information about diabetes. In a competitive setting, this basic first-aid information has the potential to be dangerously misleading, irrelevant, and incorrect.

For example, contrary to the manual, a diabetic athlete is unlikely to recover from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in five minutes. This piece of information could mislead coaches and players who believe the athlete should be ready to “get back in there” when in reality it would very likely end in the athlete passing out. When a diabetic passes out they require the use of a glucagon pen (needle), a tool which Mason forbids safety officers from administering. When participating in athletics, diabetic athletes are much more likely to experience severe hypoglycemia, especially if they fail to recognize their low blood sugar in the heat of the moment. This sort of misleading information can be dangerous to diabetic athletes and needs to be changed before the consequences are eventually reaped.

It may come as a surprise, but Mason wouldn’t have to spend any money to receive more in-depth and quality diabetic education for the safety officers. The Mason chapter of the College Diabetes Network offered to host a training session to provide correct and relevant information and dispel any myths the safety officers and coaches may have about diabetes. A George Mason Recreation administrator said that they would not make the proposed info session mandatory, implying that it was unreasonable and a waste of the safety officers’ time. So the issue is not about money or resources—it’s about the lack of action by those in charge. The session may be boring, and some may not even retain the information, but they signed up to be a safety officer so they have a responsibility to do their best to take care of their teammates.

The issue of providing proper diabetic training is not one of money, time, or resources. It’s a moral issue. Most of you reading this probably do not have diabetes. You may have asthma, epilepsy, or any myriad of diseases that affect your ability to play sports like diabetes does, or you may be perfectly healthy, but either way, why shouldn’t Mason do all it can to provide the safest environment possible for everyone? All athletes deserve and have earned the ability to feel safe when playing for Mason, so now it’s time for them to step up. The solutions are out there, and the support system is here. I urge Mason Recreation to do the moral thing or if anything save itself from a potential lawsuit. I urge you, the reader, whether or not you play a sport to learn more about diabetes. Be aware, be supportive, be who Mason Recreation cannot.