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The Next Generation of You: Derek Kennard

May. 23, 2018 Professional Athletes Foundation

By Jim Gehman

“But they couldn’t ever get me to sleep long enough for my insurance to qualify me to be diagnosed with sleep apnea,” said Derek Kennard, who played 11 seasons [1986-1996] with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys.

“They have somewhere between 40 to 60 wires all over your face and your body. And then they strap this mask around your face and they said, ‘Go ahead, go to sleep.’ I tried and I could never go to sleep in those places.”

After more than eight years of not being able to reach the minimum of seven hours of sleep for the study to be verified, Kennard discovered a successful alternative – the Herbst appliance.

“I met a young man by the name of David Gergen with the Gergen (Orthodontic) Laboratories in Cape Creek, Arizona,” Kennard said. “He was able to send me home with a sleep study machine that recorded my sleep in the comforts of my home. It is like a real small square that fits right on your chest and it wraps around, with a lack of a better term, like a big rubber band.

“It also had a deal that goes into your nose and wraps around your ears for oxygen. You just go to sleep with that on and it recorded that I always start out on my back and that’s where my worst sleep was happening. I would flip to my right side and I was not successful, maybe an hour and a half of sleep there. And my best sleep was getting done on left side. It also recorded how many times I got up to go to the restroom and how many times I was trying to get frisky with the wife. I’m just letting you know how accurate that machine was operating. I wake up refreshed and rejuvenated, full of energy and ready to go.”

Kennard, a retired school counselor who makes his home in suburban Phoenix, now travels to different NFL cities as a representative of Pro Player Health Alliance, a company that has teamed with the NFLPA, to talk with former players about sleep apnea.

“The advice I direct them is to get tested and see if you have sleep apnea,” Kennard said. “If you do, get treated and be open to the alternatives. Some people suffer from claustrophobia and are unable to use the CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine.

“It’s much more pleasant to have the Herbst (appliance) which fits in your mouth and you can move around. Plus, if you’re a flip-flopper like I am, it’s wonderful to not have to be connected to a machine the entire night.

“(Motivated) because of my brother’s death. It’s just been a passion of mine to help our brothers from the NFL, the retired players, to live a better quality of life.”

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

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