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Plymouth Whitemarsh D1 commit Amorim (@THEDUKESLC) using lacrosse to help live with Type 1 diabetes

Sunday, 7th May 2017

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Matt Chandik, Posted 5/7/17

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ricky Amorim is one of the select few players in America who will play Division I lacrosse.

Ricky Amorim (right) defends for Plymouth Whitemarsh

Sure, in Philadelphia, there’s a high amount of future college stars, but statistically, Amorim bucked the trend across the country when he committed to Providence College. There are even less players who can claim that Type 1 diabetes played a major role in getting him there.

When Amorim was seven years old, he and his family left for a trip at Six Flags amusement park. On the way there, Amorim got thirsty and asked his father, Ricardo, for a drink. Ten minutes later, Ricky complained of thirst again and asked for another drink. It didn’t do much to quench his thirst, but it accelerated his need to go to the bathroom over and over again.

“My parents thought I was joking at one point, but I told them that I was definitely serious,” said Amorim, a sophomore LSM/defenseman at PW who plays club lacrosse for the Duke’s LC. “For some reason, I was constantly thirsty and I had to keep going to the bathroom, so they got concerned and cancelled the trip and took me to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”

That’s where Amorim met nurse practitioner Melissa Rearson, who informed him that he had Type 1 diabetes. The news shook the Amorims up, especially with how young Ricky was, but he was determined to not let the diagnosis ruin him.

“She was very honest with me, and if there’s a problem, she does what she can to fix it,” Amorim said. “I don’t let it determine how I live, though. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that destroys the insulin making glands in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is not a result of being overweight or eating sugary foods, T1D cannot be cured by eating healthy foods or exercising.

“All T1D’s must take insulin through needles or an insulin pump, every time you eat food that has carbohydrates, and we must also get continuous insulin throughout the day. In my case, one unit of insulin every hour, and one unit for every 10 carbs of food. This means as a Type 1 diabetic, I cannot live without having insulin injected into my body daily.”

There’s a whole routine that goes in to taking care of Type 1 diabetes, and it definitely wasn’t designed with athletes in mind. Amorim always carries glucose around with him in case his blood sugar drops too low and he’s also got insulin on standby if his blood sugar skyrockets.

Amorim’s continuous glucose meter keeps by-the-minute tabs on his blood sugar and alerts him if he’s going too high or too low. He aims for a reading of 100 to 120 mg/dl, while deeming anything under 60 too low and anything over 200 a dangerous threshold. Getting the news meant that he had to change parts of his diet.

Like most kids, Amorim loved sugary foods like donuts and candy, as well as pancakes and French toast with lots of syrup, but those had to go.

“It’s kind of sad because I wish I could still eat them,” Amorim said wistfully. “I loved donuts as a kid.”

There’s no doubt that anything that’s too low or too high has a major effect on him, both on and off the field.

“Thanks to Missy Rearson at CHOP and my parents, I’ve mastered the management of my type one diabetes,” Amorim said. “I can get my glucose to be at perfect levels during lacrosse games. It starts by eating a high-carb, high-protein breakfast, then a low-carb, high-protein lunch.

“This combination prevents me from having to give myself lots of insulin prior to a game because exercise combined with high doses of insulin can cause you to crash to low levels, which can be deadly. I carry a tube of glucose in my pocket at all times in case this ever happens.”

Amorim is happy to get his story publicized so that more people can be educated on the true facts about Type 1 diabetes.

“Many T1D’s are embarrassed to talk about their disease, give themselves insulin, or measure their glucose in public because of the stigmatism of diabetes, which is that people who have it are overweight, have poor diet, don’t exercise, and eat sugary foods,” Amorim said. “I think it is important for people with T1D to dispel these myths and tell their story to the world for awareness.”

He can also thank his parents – in more ways than one – for planting the seeds for his college commitment. Amorim was a baseball player before getting diagnosed with the disease, and Ricardo decided that it was time for his son to play something that required more running. He picked up a lacrosse stick, started running, and the rest is history.

“My dad wanted me to get the proper exercise that I needed, so now I can play a sport and get the proper exercises that I need all the time,” Amorim said. “If you have a sport to play, it makes so much easier to maintain the sugar.

“When I started, my parents weren’t thinking of whether or not I had a Division I future. They just thought, ‘let’s just put him out there and let him have some fun,’ and then they started thinking, ‘Wow, he can really play.'”

That much is certain. Amorim is a leader on his PW team and his play for the Duke’s Lacrosse Club helped him get noticed by Providence. He always has to stay vigilant about the effects of practices and games have on his blood sugar, particularly in summer tournaments where he can play two or three games a day in scorching temperatures.

“It’s had a minimal impact on the team because Ricky does a pretty good job of managing everything that he needs to do,” PW coach Bryan Gregg said. “He did have one game where he got frustrated because his sugar levels got a little out of whack and it took him a little bit longer to get where he needed to be. All I try to do is reassure him that he has the time he needs, and the great part about a team sport is that you have teammates that pick you up.”

“Managing it in club is more difficult because you’re playing more games, and after one game, your sugar might be fine,” Amorim said. “When you have that break in between games, you realize that you have to make adjustments. I have to think ahead more. If I have three games, how am I going to approach that?”

Duke’s LC director and coach Ebe Helm said Amorim’s discipline and maturity help him to succeed at all levels.

“It’s a very unique dynamic for a young athlete to deal with,” said Helm. “Ricky is very interesting because he is performing at a high level in the classroom – he is a 4.0 kid – and on the field, To have the discipline and to have the motivation to be able to perform at such high levels is amazing.

“Diabetes sucks the life out of you, but the tenacity he shows and how he embraces the situation and takes care of himself is almost maniacal. You don’t see him complaining; he just goes about business and does what he needs to do. He has wonderful maturity that allows him to deal with something that could be very debilitating.”

Amorim is dealing with it pretty well, by the looks of it. He’s got two more years of high school and club lacrosse before he heads to Providence, where he’ll look to compete for immediate playing time. It’s surreal to him to see how far he’s come from a baseball player to a legitimate Division I prospect. As it turns out, his diabetes wasn’t a deterrent for any schools that recruited him, nor does he believe it should be.

“I can’t really believe how far I’ve gotten and I can’t believe it’s happening,” Amorim said. “No coaches were worried about it and I don’t think they should be scared of it. It’s controlled.

“I also look up to athletes like (NFL quarterback Jay Cutler) and (former Philadelphia Flyers star) Bobby Clarke. Cutler plays in the NFL, so Type 1 is not stopping him from doing things. Clarke managed his diabetes as a professional athlete and as a sports executive, and I hope to one day follow in his footsteps.”

Maybe he can be the next athlete with Type 1 that lacrosse players can look up to. He’s already defied the odds to be where he is today.

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