Managing diabetes on the ice: Dskate teaches hockey players how to succeed
Published Tuesday, July 29, 2014 8:14PM EDT
For young hockey players living with diabetes, managing their blood sugar levels while staying competitive can be a challenge. But a program that brings together elite athletes, parents, coaches and medical experts is hoping to change that.
Dskate teaches hockey players with diabetes how to manage their blood sugar levels by arming them with important information such as proper nutrition and exercise.
The program has helped 13-year-old Alyssa Coulter, who says having diabetes used to make her feel left out from her hockey team.
"I always had to take a minute to take my blood sugar levels," she told CTV Toronto.
Since enrolling in the program, Coulter says she no longer feels out of place. "Here, you don't have to take that minute because everyone (takes their blood sugar levels) together."
Coulter says the program has also helped her handle questions from her teammates about diabetes, and about her future goals. Her big dream she says is to someday play hockey for Canada in the Olympics.
The goal is not unrealistic.
Former NHL hockey star Nick Boynton, who is involved in the Dskate program, was just 19-years-old when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and was about to start his NHL training in Boston.
He says he struggled at first but with the help of a supportive family and top-notch doctors, Boynton was eventually able to establish a good routine for himself. He even learned to how play without his insulin pump during games in order to avoid damaging it.
"A period lasts 45 minutes. I would take my pump off. I wouldn't even wear it on the ice and I could last," he told CTV Toronto.
While some young athletes in the Dskate program can play without their pumps during games, many continue to wear them, although they sometimes break.
At the Milton Sports Complex, the Dskate participants, aged 8 to 16, practice drills to improve their skills.
Mike Riddell, a professor of kinesiology and health sciences at York University and director of education for Dskate, says a good diabetes management routine is important for success in the sport.
He says one study has shown that high blood sugar levels can impair a player's ability to pass the puck and direct it effectively. And low sugar levels can cause disorientation.
"You might even score on your own goalie – and that would be horrible" he jokes.