Lauren Cox, Patrick Peterson and other diabetic athletes seek balance during coronavirus pandemic

Diabetes is listed by the CDC as an underlying condition for severe illness from COVID-19, and athletes with the condition such as Lauren Cox face another level of concern. Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Lauren Cox was waiting, in June, for the WNBA to return from the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. She was ready to play.

Whenever, wherever, however.

"I'm not necessarily super concerned to where I wouldn't want to go back and play," Cox said.

Why the question? Why, perhaps, the elevated concern? Lauren Cox is diabetic.

The 22-year-old, who was drafted third overall in the 2020 WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7. Experts and doctors all around the globe -- including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- have said individuals with underlying conditions are at higher risk for severe illness after contracting the coronavirus.

Furthermore, guidelines from the American Diabetes Association state: "In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus. Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed."

And then one month after Cox said she was ready to play, she announced she was recovering from COVID-19 and was waiting to be cleared so she could travel to join her team in Florida, to the WNBA bubble at IMG Academy.

Cox told ESPN on Aug. 5 -- the day of her WNBA debut -- she was "very fortunate" to have mild symptoms resulting from COVID-19 and she was taking all necessary precautions before contracting the virus. Nothing has changed in her approach as she now joins the WNBA bubble and her Fever teammates -- saying she was already on top of monitoring her blood sugar and making sure it didn't spike too high or drop too low.

"That means everything from testing my blood sugars more frequently to more complex things such as learning what ketones are and how to check for them and understanding how different foods impact my blood sugar levels. I know that if I get sick, it's very important that I get treated quickly," she said.

Dr. Emily Nosova, an endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes in the Mount Sinai Health System, confirmed that a professional athlete has likely successfully managed his or her diabetes for years, and is in a position to continue doing so in the age of the coronavirus.

It's having uncontrolled blood sugar that puts people with diabetes at risk for serious illness from the coronavirus, according to Nosova. Although, she cautions there still have not been any large studies to prove the connection.

"This is a big generalization -- but if someone is skilled enough and has enough rigor in their structure and their schedule and in themselves in order to become a professional athlete, typically that goes hand in hand with having well-controlled Type 1 diabetes," Nosova told ESPN.

The biggest thing is keeping blood sugar numbers in the goal range -- something Nosova says professional athletes are already doing tirelessly. Athletes need to be "hyper-monitored."

It is also important to note, according to the American Journal of Medicine and Johns Hopkins, that Type 1 diabetes (around 5% of diagnoses) is an autoimmune condition caused by the body attacking its own pancreas resulting in little or no insulin production. Although Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can also develop in adults. Type 2 diabetes -- the pancreas usually produces some insulin -- is more commonly diagnosed in those who are 45 years of age and older. And body weight is a contributing factor.

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Adam Duvall, left fielder for the Atlanta Braves, told ESPN he's been told by doctors that if he stays on top of his blood sugar numbers and "focuses on keeping those at a good level, then really I'm at no higher risk than anyone else.

"Moreso now than ever, it is important to stay on top of those numbers," the 31-year-old said. If the levels are too high or too low, he could have diabetes problems in general but COVID ones too. "I'm just taking the necessary precautions to alleviate the stress," he said.

There are a handful of other professional athletes dealing with diabetes, like Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. He said in May that his Type 2 diabetes may impact his decision to play -- and recently told ESPN's Josh Weinfuss he will not be opting out.

"If I feel that if that's the safest thing possible for us to be able to come back to work, I'm all-in," Peterson said during a call with reporters. "But if it's not, obviously I have to make -- not I, we all have to make a very, very smart decision because you don't want to have the opportunity to bringing that back home."

Some other athletes who are diabetic

JORDAN MORRIS, Seattle Sounders forward: Morris, who has Type 1 diabetes, is still going forward with playing in the MLS bubble. "It can definitely be a little bit scary to see that [coronavirus warning]," Morris told ESPN. "I think, having diabetes, I understand that you have to take really good care of yourself in order to avoid complications in the future, so it's kind of been a similar mindset with coronavirus: you have to take really good care of yourself and follow the guidelines to avoid getting sick."

MARK ANDREWS, Baltimore Ravens, tight end: Reached his first Pro Bowl last season, was diagnosed at age 9 with Type 1 diabetes, and said "opting out never really crossed my mind."

BRETT MARTIN, Texas Rangers reliever: Martin was placed on the injured list on July 16 because of his positive COVID test from before training camp. He has Type 1 diabetes.The left-hander has since been activated and is pitching for the Rangers.

KOHL STEWART, Baltimore Orioles pitcher: "My elevated risk of serious complications of COVID-19 due to Type 1 diabetes continues to be of great concern," he said in a statement opting out of the season earlier this month.

MAX DOMI, Montreal Canadiens center: After "extensive conversations with doctors," Domi said he has decided to play in the NHL's restart, despite the risks associated with his Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

An expert's perspective

"[Some] perspective for people with diabetes is these athletes are role models in terms of how they excel at their sport despite the additional burden of having the disease and so I think it's great to celebrate the participation of these people, despite the fact that they have bad news. I mean I hate to be an optimist and change your story but that's, that's good," Dr. Daniel Drucker, a Canadian endocrinologist said.