UWSP Athlete Manages Diabetes
Gunnar Tessmer.

UWSP Athlete Manages Diabetes

Gunnar Tessmer was born July 11, 1994 and was raised in the small town of Athens. Tessmer was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was four and his diagnosis restricted and reshaped his life.

Juvenile diabetes affects the pancreas, and in Tessmer’s case his pancreas does not regulate blood sugar levels. He must take insulin shots to manage high and low blood sugar levels and says if his blood sugar is low, he knows he should eat foods like meat and cheese to bring it back up.

Tessmer checks his levels by pricking his finger and evaluating the blood sample with a specialized device that helps monitor his system. These devices come in various shapes and sizes.

At this point, he knows what every type of food is worth in carbohydrates. Tessmer calculates what he eats to keep his blood sugar levels in an 80-150 range. He records his levels and insulin shots in a booklet at every meal and said he gives himself four to five shots of insulin per day.

Tessmer’s parents have been by his side since his diagnosis. They have taught him what to eat and what to watch out for because misjudging nutrition facts can be. If an incorrect insulin dosage is given for a certain food, blood sugar levels can rise past target range or drop enormously low.

Tessmer has emergency sugar called glucose shots that he takes to fire him back to target range.

“Diabetes is very manageable, but you have to take care of yourself because it can really hurt you in the future,” Tessmer said. “Staying on top of it is the greatest challenge.”

Juvenile diabetes is a challenge every day, but when combined with athletic activity poses an increased challenge. Tessmer grew up loving sports and that became difficult when he started feeling “low.” This feeling refers to the actual dropping of blood sugar levels below target range.

When Tessmer got low he would have to sit out of practice, drink some Gatorade and come back in when he was feeling himself again. Taking constant care of himself prevented his condition from restricting him.

During his senior year of high school, Tessmer was a first team all-conference in baseball and football. He was second team in football his junior year and was honorable mention for basketball his senior year.

Tessmer recalled a specific moment in his high school career when his condition took him out of the game.

During football season his senior year, Tessmer and his team were playing in the first round of the playoffs. In the second quarter, he began to feel slow. Tessmer was a starter on both sides of the ball, so it was a big blow for the Athens team since he knew he had to sit out to refuel. Tessmer was out for two costly possessions and his team ended up losing the game.

“I still wonder to this day if we would have won if I didn’t have to come off that field,” Tessmer said. “Once in a while, it haunts me.”

Tessmer maintained his ambition and athletic integrity. He was recruited by a few Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools and came to University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to play football because he liked the coaches.

“Overall, the school made a good impression on me and was a short drive far from my home,” Tessmer said.

As a freshman, Tessmer was ready to show what he could do on the football field, but juvenile diabetes was something he had to factor into his game.

The training staff at UWSP was constantly monitoring him. Tessmer said his condition would take its toll during long practices and he would have to sit out halfway through sprints.

Teammates did not understand why an athlete built like Tessmer had to sit out and were unsure what juvenile diabetes was.

Tessmer said his condition started to become psychological and it began to hurt his chances, but has accepted it and stayed positive. He never gets too down on himself.

Tessmer’s teammates attested to his positive attitude.

“Gunnar was always a guy you could come too that would pick you back up,” said cornerback Mike Kelty. “He always had positive things to say.”

“He worked hard and when he couldn’t work hard would encourage us to work hard,” said center Brent Sisko. “He’s just an overall great teammate.”

Tessmer played all three games for the junior varsity squad during his freshman and sophomore years. The last JV game his sophomore year, Tessmer suffered another blow with an anterior cruciate ligament tear.

This freak injury need surgery and Tessmer went through hours upon hours of rehab in hopes that he could come out the fall for junior year. After two weeks of summer camp, he succeeded better than anyone anticipated.

Feeling restored, Tessmer believed he would be a major contributor as a second man at on the D-end position. During a full practice scrimmage, Tessmer buckled the same knee.

Tessmer felt distraught, shocked and heartbroken about his injury but was thankful for his supportive family, coaches and teammates through this rough period. This time, Tessmer suffered a torn meniscus and micro-fracture femur, which were not as major.

These injuries still forced Tessmer to make a big decision.

Given his experience with juvenile diabetes, Tessmer realized he had to take care of himself in order to protect his future self. Knowing a third injury to his knee could jeopardize his ability to walk normally, Tessmer decided he would not be on the playing field again.

Tessmer stepped to the sidelines where he cheered and willed his teammates just as he had done in his high school playoff games. He has been a constant supporter.

Tessmer’s current goal is to focus on getting healthy but remains close with his teammates while working toward his goals

“I’m a reloaded Gunnar, on to bigger and better things,” Tessmer said.

Tessmer is currently employed in an entry-level position at Coca-Cola and knows it could be the start of a fruitful career.

Tessmer’s experiences have shown that working hard and believing in yourself are keys to staying determined. Tessmer believes this philosophy will serve him well with managing juvenile diabetes and living a full life.


Forrest Payne

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