By Sarah Vaughan Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Senior men’s tennis player Jonas Lutjen estimates he’s played in over 5,000 matches throughout his life. He has been ranked as high as No. 4 in juniors in Germany and as high as No. 5 in collegiate tennis, all while living with Type 1 diabetes.
The 22-year-old Schessel, Germany native has lived with diabetes for 19 years. He was diagnosed at the age of three.
“I found out I had diabetes because, when you have high blood sugar, you are really thirsty,” he said. “I was at my grandma’s house, and I was drinking Coke all day. She told me to stop drinking Coke and that I couldn’t have anymore. I locked myself in the bathroom and was just drinking tap water. That’s when my grandma knew there was something wrong, so we got it checked out, and found out I had diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that affects the pancreas. Some people are born with pancreases that do not have islet cells with the ability to produce insulin. Others are typically diagnosed with the disease following an illness in which the body fails to recognize its own tissues and inadvertently attacks itself in an attempt to ward off foreign invaders. Genetics and contact with certain viruses may also play a role in contracting the disease.
In addition to taking at least five insulin injections a day, one injection of slow-acting insulin in the morning and one at night and three injections of fast-acting insulin after meals, Lutjen also tests his blood sugar around 10 times a day, sometimes more, depending on the amount of exercise he gets. On average, he practices around 20 hours a week.
“On days that I play, I take less insulin, and from experience, I know how much to take and how much more I should take if I don’t do anything,” he said.
Lutjen said he does not remember a time when he did not have diabetes and that having no family members with the disease meant his family had to learn how to treat it once he was diagnosed. He now has a routine that allows him to effectively manage his blood sugars, eating the same types of meals at the same time of day and getting plenty of exercise, both of which keep Lutjen’s blood sugars stabilized.
“Sometimes it’s kind of hard to play with, but if you manage it well, you can deal with it,” he said.
Even with an effective plan, however, high and low blood sugars can still occur, sometimes during a match. In order to prevent his blood sugar from getting low while playing, Lutjen carries gummy bears and packets of sugar in his pockets and rehydrates with Gatorade.
“It’s hard to start a match when your sugar is low or high, and you can’t really give yourself an insulin shot,” he said. “It just takes a while to start working, so that’s what makes it hard, but the longer the match lasts the better I feel.”
Many people are surprised to find out that Lutjen has diabetes because he manages to keep his blood sugars stabilized while also having a successful tennis career.
The All-American and two-time All-SEC honoree has become one of the top collegiate players in the nation in both singles and doubles.
Just as impressive is the fact that he seems to humbly accept the disease as part of his life.
“The hardest thing is saying no to really good foods that are bad for you, but in general you just have to manage it and always take care of your body,” he said. “It took me a while to get used to it, testing my sugar and injecting myself, but it’s just what you have to do.”
Even Lutjen’s teammates were surprised to learn he was living with diabetes.
“I’m not even sure if all of them are aware I have it,” he said. “Some of them know, but for me, diabetes isn’t really something that sticks out. Sometimes they might see me test my blood sugar or take my injections, but I think they are used to it.”
Lutjen, who plans to turn pro after graduation, said diabetes should never prevent anyone from pursuing his or her goal of playing a sport.
“Actually, playing a sport helps you, because it keeps your sugar low so you take less insulin, and you’re more active,” he said. “For me the worst thing I could do is have a day without playing at all because my sugar would get high, and then I would have to take more insulin and could not eat as much. It helps me to live a better and healthier lifestyle. It makes me feel better.”
When asked if he believed he would have done anything differently without diabetes, he said, “my fingers would look a little nicer, but other than that, everything would be the same.”
The calendar turned to March, as the men's and women's basketball teams march toward the SEC Tournament and postseason play. The baseball team faced perhaps its biggest challenge of nonconference play. The softball and men's tennis teams each had another... read more
The numbers and bracket projections may not be in his favor at this point, but head women's basketball coach Matt Insell is selling the NCAA Tournament selection committee on his team passing the eye test, as Ole Miss enters its... read more
BATON ROUGE, La. -- With an opportunity to perhaps lock itself into the NCAA Tournament, or at the very least enhance its resume, Ole Miss lost back-to-back games for the first time all season, falling on the road at LSU... read more
Despite the most recent home loss to Georgia on Wednesday night, Ole Miss remains a team projected to be solidly in the field, as the Rebels put their school record four-game SEC road winning streak on the line when they... read more
Here's a collection of snow days photos from Ole Miss Athletics Photographer Josh McCoy (@OleMissPix):The Pavillion at Ole Miss in winter! #SnowDay2015 #WAOM @OleMissSports @OleMissMBB @OleMissWBB pic.twitter.com/nHyhVPlDvG-- OleMissPix (@OleMissPix) February 25, 2015 Awweeee.... #SnowDay2015 #WAOM @OleMissSports @OleMissFB pic.twitter.com/R1BDZ0shvS-- OleMissPix (@OleMissPix)... read more
If recent history is any indication, Ole Miss and Georgia are likely to go down to the wire on Wednesday night. Four of the last five meetings over the last three seasons have been decided by five points or less,... read more
The defensive backs, including former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. Looking ahead, Ole Miss will hold its annual pro day on March 5... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review Feb. 17-23, 2015 Men's Basketball - Ole Miss posted a 2-0 mark last week with a 71-65 win at Mississippi State and a 59-57 victory over Tennessee. The Rebels improved to 10-4 in the... read more
Despite winter weather that affected many teams, it was a busy week for Ole Miss athletics. The men's basketball completed a 2-0 week and has positioned itself well entering the last two weeks of the regular season. The baseball, women's... read more
After missing the end of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to recovery from a torn labrum, sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett has been brilliant in his first two outings back in 2015, fanning 19 batters through 12.0... read more
For the second time in as many weeks, Ole Miss embarks on a Thursday-Saturday swing, returning home to host Tennessee on Saturday after a 71-65 win on Thursday at Mississippi State. During the previous week, Ole Miss was on the... read more
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The game hung in the balance. Mississippi State had just regained a 54-52 lead with 6:25 left, taking advantage of a 6-0 run. Head coach Andy Kennedy challenged his team, and junior guard Stefan Moody answered the... read more