Competing in the National Hockey League presents a long list of daily challenges, including how to capitalize on scoring chances, avoid the big hits, and maintain the physique needed to compete day in and day out. Along with this, Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes must balance his glucose levels both on and off the ice.
Domi was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12 years old.
“I was coming back to Toronto from a hockey tournament in Michigan and every five minutes I had to ask my Mom to pull over to go to the bathroom or to get a drink,” said Domi in a 2016 interview with ESPN. Domi’s mother took him to the doctor’s office the very next day, and a diagnosis was made.
A decade of living and playing with Type 1 diabetes has enabled Domi to get more comfortable with his game-day routine, one that requires constant monitoring of his glucose levels. Testing typically occurs before the game, halfway between periods, after periods, and after regulation has ended. After gameplay, it’s critical for Type 1 athletes like Domi to continue checking levels up until bedtime; the immense amount of physical activity from the day combined with post-game meals can cause complications during sleep if proper glucose levels are not maintained.
One of the cornerstones to Domi’s coping mechanisms is his diabetes alert dog, Orion. Orion is a Labrador Retriever who has undergone hours of extensive training to detect odor changes in Domi that indicate low blood glucose levels. When Orion senses that Domi is low, he alerts his owner by pulling at a device that the hockey player wears on his waist. It’s a cue that lets Domi know he needs to check his blood glucose, and even more on days that he is playing hockey. At nighttime, Orion will hop up onto Domi’s bed when he notices a shift out of range. According to Domi, Orion is right 99 percent of the time.
The Canadian-born hockey player has excelled in his first two seasons in the NHL and holds a very promising future. As a rookie, Domi scored 18 goals with 34 assists. He followed up the next season with 9 goals and 29 assists. Before his NHL career, Domi represented Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, helping them win gold over Russia in the title game. He made his senior national debut with Canada at the 2016 World Championship.
Domi is a poster child for all athletes with diabetes, and it is a role he has embraced. He hopes that young athletes everywhere can aspire to pursue their dreams and ambitions despite the burden that Type 1 diabetes places on them.
Sources for this article:
Image Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
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