The Hall of Fame guard played 13 years without allowing epilepsy to slow him down.
As the 2021 NFL draft rapidly approaches, there are a number of issues with prospective draft picks teams take into consideration. Whether it be personal conduct, leadership, medical issues, or anything else which could affect a players NFL career path, teams must do their due diligence in determining any factors which could affect a player’s future.
One possible red flag for one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class came out recently when Justin Fields from Ohio State confirmed that he continues to play football while being treated for epilepsy. Although epilepsy is a very serious neurological disorder, it can be managed through proper medication. As stated by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, one of the reporters who announced the news concerning Fields, the condition has not affected his ability to play football in the past, and his doctors believe he will eventually outgrow the condition as has been his family history.
OSU QB Justin Fields has confirmed to NFL teams during the pre-draft process that he is managing epilepsy – a neurological disorder that can cause seizures, per me and @TomPelissero. It has not affected football & doctors believe he’ll outgrow it as his other family members have.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 21, 2021
Coming to the defense of Justin Fields and his ability to play the NFL was former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro guard and member of the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame class Alan Faneca. Playing 13 years in the NFL while managing his epilepsy, Faneca is living proof for both Fields and any other NFL prospect with epilepsy that having the condition does not keep one from success in the league.
— Alan Faneca (@afan66) April 21, 2021
Faneca first discovered he had epilepsy while in high school. Being able to manage the condition through proper medication, Faneca went on to a successful college career at Louisiana State University as well as a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
In his post NFL years, Faneca has used his influence to help raise awareness for those living with epilepsy, those close to someone with epilepsy, and those caretakers of someone living with epilepsy. In an interview with epsyhealth.com Faneca was asked about what raising awareness for epilepsy means to him.
It’s important to me because it helps to take the stigma away – having something or someone else to point to other than the seizures or experiences people see in movies. Epilepsy is a part of us, but it’s not who we are! It’s something we have but not who we are.
Not shying away from his openness about the issue, Faneca recently posted a picture of his medication on his social media page.
— Alan Faneca (@afan66) April 22, 2021
When viewing Faneca’s Twitter bio, it is not being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or his time with the Steelers, LSU Tigers, or any of his other successes which headline his profile. Instead, Faneca opens with, “I have epilepsy, but it does not define me.”
In the same epsyhealth.com interview, Faneca offered advice for those who have been recently diagnosed.
For caregivers, I would say just be there for them and help them through the good and the bad times. They’re gonna have moments they just want to talk.
For someone experiencing epilepsy themselves, I would say stay the course, stick with the doctor’s that work for you, it’s not the end or the beginning, it’s the path, the path you’re on!
With Faneca as a prime example of how living with epilepsy does not keep one from having a top-notch NFL career, this issue is unlikely to affect Justin Fields’ stock in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft. If any team were to pass on Fields for this reason, it will only be those drafting behind them next Thursday who will greatly benefit from the potential of drafting one of the top quarterbacks in this year‘s class.
If you are interested in more information about ending the stigma around epilepsy, please visit TalkAboutIt.org.