Basketball with Food Allergies
By Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Chad Seals
“He shoots, he scores”, that is what I like to hear when I am playing a basketball game. Hi, I’m Chad, a fifteen-year-old freshman in high school. Playing basketball has always been a passion of mine. One Saturday morning when I was four, I walked into the family room and my dad was watching something on tv. I asked him what it was and he told me it was a basketball game. I sat down with him and watched. He started telling me about the game and the players. As I watched, I was excited about the game and wanted to try it. Later that day, we got a kid’s basketball hoop and ball. I went outside and played for hours. I knew I was hooked!
One challenge that I have faced as a basketball player is having food allergies. I am allergic to nuts, shellfish, sesame seed and mango. I have known about my allergies since I was almost two. A couple of weeks before I turned two, I was exposed to a chocolate chip peanut butter muffin accidentally at a restaurant. My parents were told that it was a chocolate chip muffin and did not know that it contained peanut butter. Since food allergies run in my family, my parents were advised to not expose me to peanut products until I was four. But here they were, when I was two, faced with me having a huge allergic reaction and getting diagnosed with food allergies. So, I learned at an early age, that I needed to be careful as I was going to navigate life as someone who has food allergies.
Having allergies and playing sports is challenging at times, but I don’t let it stop me. Basketball is my sport, so I play it every chance I get. I have played in several different recreational leagues, my middle school team and five years with a travel team. I plan on continuing the sport whenever I get a chance to play.
When I start with a new team, I make sure everyone knows that I have food allergies. This is very important because some people like to eat protein bars with peanuts in them. If you tell your teammates about your allergies, they will make sure they don’t eat your allergens. If they do eat your allergens, then hopefully they will be considerate teammates and wash their hands. At the end of basketball games, the two teams line up and high five everyone. This is good for sportsmanship but bad for allergies. What if someone on the other team had eaten something that is one of your food allergies? Well, you can do two things. You can fist bump everyone or you could wash/wipe your hands after you high five. I always clean my hands right after and I come prepared with antibacterial wipes in my basketball bag.
Another important point to remember is to bring your own snacks. I always make sure that I have plenty of water, Gatorade, fruit and chips. I bring some healthy snacks and some junk food snacks so if my teammates eat a treat that I can’t eat, I make sure that I have a treat that is safe for me to enjoy.
Playing sports as someone who has food allergies might sound hard but with a little preparation, it can be navigated. I know keeping myself safe is important and I hope you do the same. Thanks for reading about basketball and food allergies. Catch me on the court.