Berrie Center Patient has a Passion for Rugby

In pursuit of his passion—the contact sport of rugby—Berrie Center patient Mike Weis, 27, has broken an ankle, ribs and even an eye socket. Still, he said, “of all my scary moments on the field, I’ve never had any dangerous blood sugar episodes—they’ve all been limited to broken bones. I’ve always had doctors who were aggressive and supportive, so they’ve helped me figure out how to deal with diabetes while playing contact sports. And my parents have always been there for me by pushing me to pursue my passions, learn by doing, and teaching me how to make smart decisions.”

Mike, who has had type 1 diabetes since he was 3-years-old, has had a 10-year love affair with rugby. “I was a freshman in college when I got addicted to rugby and just never quit,” he recalled. The key to playing for Mike, he said, is staying “tightly controlled,” adding, “I’m very on top of my fitness, I’m very on top of my diet and I check my blood sugar 10 times a day and I have an insulin pump.”

Because he is in a competitive rugby league (the same league that picks the US Olympic rugby team) Mike is surrounded by coaches who now understand his medical condition. He plays rugby three to four times a week during the season and five to six days a week in the gym during the off-season. “I know it sounds like a lot but it’s really not,” said Mike. “I’m always looking forward to playing rugby—always looking after my diet and exercise, always looking towards the next game. It’s never a chore. It’s all part of what I enjoy doing.”

What is rugby? It looks a lot like football—same tackling of opponents and running the similarly shaped ball into the end zone. But even though rugby is a more physical than tactical sport, it is played without a helmet.  “Rugby is actually one of the most played sports in the world, just behind soccer and cricket,” said Mike who works in internet sales in Manhattan. “It’s just beginning to catch on in this country.”

Mike plays for the Bayonne Bombers. His home field is in Bayonne, New Jersey, and they are part of the Empire Rugby Union (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut). His regular season takes place in the Tri-State Area. Playoffs take place across the United States depending on how far teams advance. The end goal is to make it all the way to the National Championship Game, which takes place in Glendale, CO in June.

Mike Weis grew up in San Diego, Ca. without ever being exposed to rugby. He was the oldest in a family that loved sports. “I started asking to play football when I was 5-years-old, and I bugged my parents for four years until they finally said yes.” It wasn’t until he got to Purdue University and was asked to try out for a rugby team that his life changed forever.

Added Dr. Utpal Pajvani, MD, PhD, who has worked with Mike for the last three years at the Berrie Center: “All credit goes to Mike - he works very hard to control his T1D, and proves every time he gets out on the rugby field that having T1D (and all the accompanying devices) shouldn't stop you from pursuing your goals.”

 Mike shares his love for rugby with his love for his fiancé Erin, who he will marry next June.

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