Lincoln City defender Ben Coker made his Imps debut just weeks ago after a year on the side-line caused by a serious knee injury in his final season at previous club Southend United, however, this battle is not the first big hurdle Coker has faced in his journey as a professional footballer.
At the age of 15 while part of the youth academy at Cambridge United Coker was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, this was a complete shock to Coker who hadn’t even heard of the disease.
“When I first found out that I had diabetes, I hadn’t even heard of it before. The first question I asked the doctors was could I play football on Saturday.
“The more they explained the more I understood I would be ok if I look after my diabetes. But at first it was very scary, and I was frightened,” said Coker.
Aside from the changes to his everyday life Coker was unaware how this news would affect his future in football.
“I was really unsure if I was going to keep playing at that level and what everyone would think. But I soon realised I would be ok, and I just had to stay focused on becoming a football player,” Coker added.
As a young man trying to break into football Coker found he had no one to look up to, who also suffered from diabetes, however now as a professional he hopes he can be a role model for young people living with type 1 diabetes. Coker said;
“I didn’t really have anyone to look up to with my diabetes to be fair.
“So now I am a professional footballer I hope young and upcoming footballers can look up to me and know diabetes doesn’t hold you back.
“I hope with the way I go about my work and with all the setbacks I have had in my career, people see that you can achieve anything you want in your future.”
Now as a professional footballer Coker’s diabetes is a big part of his daily routine as he must regularly check and manage his levels, the process of this differs from training to match days.
“My day to day routine on a training day begins as I get to training early to have breakfast, check my levels and get my gym work done before training to be ready for the session ahead.
“Then it’s straight back in after training to check my levels and have my lunch. I always carb count and load up on carbs and protein before and after training sessions.
“On a match day I tend to be excited and this effects my sugar levels.
“I have to give myself a bit more long-lasting insulin and a bit faster acting insulin before and during a game.
“Touch wood I have never gone low during a game. But everyone is different. I always have Lucozade close by at training and in games just in case.”
Coker’s arrival means that Lincoln are one of the few medical teams in football who have to be prepared to deal with any issues a diabetic athlete may face, but Mike Hine, Head of Sports Science & Medicine at Lincoln City, finds that Coker manages his diabetes exceptionally well.
“Upon signing Ben, we held and in-house workshop on diabetes and its management. We prepped and primed all medical/sports science staff on his arrival and what to expect.
“It was a simple case of stocking a few additional products in the first aid kits and the odd Lucozade bottle knocking around with ‘BC’ labelled on it.
“Ultimately, although we are thoroughly prepared for any problematic scenarios, Ben manages his diabetes exceptionally well, himself. We have not had to intervene at any stage, and he knows if/when he needs to test or consume glucose.
“Ben continues to be an inspiration for the diabetes society,” said Hine.