Then and Now: Matt English Approaches Performance Technology Differently
Former Dalhousie Tigers defenceman, current Kinduct Account Executive, and Type 1 diabetic, Matt English is no stranger to how far both health and athlete performance technology have come in recent years.
“It’s been eleven years,” he says, reflecting on when he was first diagnosed with diabetes.
Back then, Matt was an up-and-coming prospect competing at the highest level of Canada’s Midget hockey ranks. But after some difficult and concerning weeks leading up to nationals — intense cramps, extreme thirst, and the loss of almost 30 pounds — he finally sought out proper medical assessment and was given the news: diabetes, Type 1 — a chronic condition that isn’t going anywhere.
It made his day-to-day life — especially at the rink — much different than the players he shared a dressing room with.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of time to necessarily focus on the game itself. Me focusing was really just making sure I had my blood sugar in check. That became a much bigger part of my pre-game routine.”
And the technology wasn’t what it is today.
“When I started, I was taking four finger pricks a day, testing my blood manually with fairly invasive technology. You’re carrying around these supplies. I had my syringes, insulin, test strips and monitors in my car, in the rink. Just pretty much everywhere.”
He was also taking needles to inject insulin manually up to ten times a day.
But since then, a number of changes in the health and technology spaces have come about. And Matt’s been there to welcome them with open arms.
It started with an insulin pump, which gave him more freedom and less injections. By the time he went to play collegiate hockey, a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) — a small, often-missable patch on his tricep — had become his best friend.
“I don’t see it, I don’t feel it, it’s not nearly as invasive,” he says.
And as he watched technology improve in the medical world, the sport tech industry was evolving, too.
“I make the comparison to sports, that [what I was doing before] is almost like when a team used to do a fitness test once or twice a year, and that’s it. Those are very individual, point-in-time measurements. But there’s so much variation that can happen between those data points.”
Now, instead of hoping for the best between periodic insulin injections and blood samples, Matt receives data from his CGM every three minutes. For results, he simply scans his phone over the patch.
Just like diabetics, athletes too are being informed and optimized from a much more modern approach.
These changes are happening fast with the introduction of GPS trackers, heart rate monitors, and data management systems, and their benefits are being felt just as quickly. The ability to observe, review, and act upon big data is optimizing the time and performance of coaches and players alike.
“It’s leading to better interventions and decisions and improved overall health,” says Matt, whose experience as a diabetic athlete has unavoidably left him with a unique perspective when approaching an Athlete Management System.
“I usually bring it up to people. I understand what our platform is allowing teams to do with their players because I’ve lived it, although it might be in a different way.”
When first starting out at Kinduct, Matt used his circumstances to learn the ins and outs of the platform: logging his glucose readings, overlaying that with water in-take, and tracking each of his workouts. Doing so prompted some serious curiosity about how his body works and responds to different foods and exercises.
And though he admits there was a time he wasn’t too keen to understand his condition — when ignorance afforded him some short-term confidence — his current way of looking at data management is that it’s only there to help.
“You can decide to buy into it or not. I could’ve decided not to buy into my diabetes technology because it’s too invasive or I have too much data and I don’t want to think about it all the time. It’s the same way an athlete can say, ‘I don’t want you to track me.’ But at the end of the day, if you want to get better, I think that you need those data points in order to understand your body better and know where and how you can improve.”
As much as things have changed in the last decade — for both diabetics and athletes — there’s still room to learn and improve.
But that’s the fun part.