Women’s soccer rookie uses on-field devices to monitor diabetes

by | Oct 29, 2019 | Biz/Tech, Feature, Sports

Nathaniel Marksman, Biz/Tech Reporter

Every time Emma Stushnoff steps on the soccer pitch, she has to prepare a little more diligently than her teammates.

Stushnoff, a Calgary native, is a first-year forward on the Hawks
soccer team.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was nine.

Stushnoff remembers feeling confused and sad, unable to understand what diabetes was. She said she’s learned a lot since then, and has taken it upon herself to attend events to raise awareness for diabetics who cope with the illness. She even appeared in a documentary.

Stushnoff ’s view of the disease soon changed. She didn’t consider
it a liability.

“I kind of thought of it as a superpower,” she said.

Women’s varsity soccer rookie Emma Stushnoff said she’s lucky to have the support of the coaches and team in helping her monitor her diabetes.

Her diabetes is monitored through two special devices. One is called the Omnipod, a small Bluetooth device which attaches to a person’s skin and transfers insulin to the pancreas.

The second device is called the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose
Monitoring (CGM) System. It comes with two pieces and combines into one once placed on the person’s body. The machine calculates the blood sugar level and gives a reading or number on the subject’s phone, which is also connected through Bluetooth.

The Dexcom G6 CGM System informs the diabetic on whether
their blood sugar has gone too high or low. A steady blood sugar reading
ranges from four to eight, or four to 10 varying with each person.

Low blood sugars are usually treated with sugar, however high
sugars need time to come back down by themselves or can be leveled with an insulin correction during the next meal.

The issue with diabetic athletes is that blood sugars shoot right up
or down depending on how much a person eats or drinks before physical activity. This can cause stress.

Stushnoff ’s struggle is usually on the field when she is playing soccer,
mainly because of her Dexcom G6 CGM monitor.

Victoria Foster, the women’s soccer team student athletic therapist,
has access to Stushnoff ’s blood sugar readings through her own phone,
thanks to the machine’s share-and link ability.

When Stushnoff is on the field, Foster monitors her blood sugars
on the sideline with her phone.

One challenge is distance. The farther Stushnoff moves from the monitor the more likely it is to cut out for 15 to 20 minutes before being recalibrated when she comes off the pitch.

Foster said it could be improved for those playing sports.

“It does the job for an average person who’s not an athlete,” she

For now, Stushnoff has to come off the field every 20 minutes to check her sugars and avoid the risk of passing out.

Jose Caro, Humber’s women’s soccer coach, hopes the machines can be upgraded to keep his star striker safe and healthy on the field.

“You’re paying for a product that’s supposed to be helping you
understand your levels and what do you do if it fails?” Caro said.

It’s a question Caro hopes will never needs answering.