January 27, 2015

Diabetic Super Bowl Champion

The most popular sport in America is football. The NFL dominates conversations between friends, family, and co-workers; as everyone enjoys relaxing on Sundays watching one of the games. Since the Super Bowl is right around the corner, I wanted to highlight Kendall Simmons, a former Pittsburg Steeler Super Bowl Champion and type 1 diabetic.

Kendall Simmons must have felt like he had the world in the palm of his hand. He was a 6 foot 3 inch 315 pound lineman coming out of Auburn. After a tremendous collegiate career in the SEC, the Pittsburg Steelers picked in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He signed a big fat contract, made it through his first training camp; and in his rookie season, he started fourteen games, another tremendous accomplishment. Just when Simmons was on a life high, things took a turn for the worse. He felt unusually tired, weak, irritable and having to use the bathroom non-stop. Over a two and a half week period, he lost 43 pounds and Simmons was diagnosed with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA or diabetes type 1.5). Simmons did not want his promising football career to end after just one season in the NFL, so with the help of his endocrinologist, team doctors and coaching staff, Simmons changed his life to manage diabetes. He knew he would have to adjust his diet and be much more meticulous in his daily regiment to keep his career alive.

By the time the first game of the season came (second year in the NFL, first year diabetic), Simmons and his staff had a plan in place to keep him on the field for the Steelers. He would check his blood glucose six to eight times while at the stadium on game day (before the game, between quarters, half time and post-game). Depending upon what his readings were, he would make the necessary adjustments with small snacks if he had hypoglycemia or insulin injections if he had hyperglycemia. Needless to say there were bumps and bruises along the way, but this allowed Simmons to start all sixteen regular games for Pittsburg. Two seasons later Simmons went on to start all twenty regular season and playoff games and lead the Steelers to the championship by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Simmons continued his career in the NFL until retiring in 2009 with the Buffalo Bills.

Kendall Simmons is an inspirational figure. He is a living example of how when life hits you with adversity, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you make the best out of the situation. Winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for every football player and Simmons did not let diabetes stop him. He now works with a variety of organizations including the JDRF, Swing 4 Diabetes, and Novo Nordisk to help improve the lives of people with diabetes.