Contrary to what some people believe, epilepsy is an extremely common chronic condition. A study published by WHO in 2022 stated that 5 million people globally are diagnosed with epilepsy each year. This goes to show that the lack of epilepsy awareness in media resulted in the spread of misinformation surrounding it. For instance, how many NFL players do you know that have been diagnosed with epilepsy? Would you be able to name a couple from the top of your head?
Here is a list of 5 NFL players who have battled seizures and have gone to raise awareness around it, as well.
Alan Faneca was a guard in the NFL for 13 seasons and an NFL All-Star offensive lineman for Pittsburgh Steelers. His success has not just helped him make a name for himself but has also established his team as the reigning champions of the Super Bowl. However, there is more to this superstar than meets the eye. In 1991, Faneca was diagnosed with epilepsy following a seizure on Christman eve. He never let his condition affect his determination to reach his goals. Over his career, he rolled his team to victory with a score of 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks and even scored a 75-yard touchdown. He committed to his medication and dared to dream. Eventually, he also began working with the Epilepsy Foundation in Pennsylvania to help raise awareness.
The famed quarterback for Chicago Bears, Justin Fields, was diagnosed with epilepsy in high school. His condition wasn’t made known to the public until his 2021 pre-draft interviews with the NFL. However, he never let it affect his gameplay. The young star rose to fame when he was named one of the Big Ten Offensive Players of the Year in 2019. He managed to control his seizures through medication and over time their frequency has dwindled.
Jason Snelling became a member of the Falcons in 2007, after undergoing about 7 rounds of the NFL Draft. He is known for his touchdowns against the New York Giants, a career-high of 147 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and 4 running touchdowns during the 2009 season. He retired in 2014 and decided to focus on raising awareness around epilepsy. The NFL star was diagnosed with the condition during college which even forced him to miss practices. However, this changed when he made it to the NFL, went on medication, and did not let it affect his drive to succeed. Today, he works with organizations, such as the Epilepsy Foundation, to dispel myths around epilepsy and encourage active management.
Samari Rolle’s epilepsy went undiagnosed for years until he started to miss games because of the condition. He believes that he used to experience confusion and lethargy which significantly affected his gameplay. Seizures can manifest in different ways and Rolle’s epilepsy was an example of that. The cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens revealed his diagnosis only in 2007 after missing the first 10 games during the NFL’s 2007-season. He continued to play while parallelly trying to find the treatment that best managed his grand mal seizures. Eventually, he also began working with the Epilepsy Foundation to fight against misinformation about epilepsy.
A running back for New York Giants, Tiki Barber was labeled as “one of the greatest in history”, by Si. He played for the team from 1997 until 2006 and gained fame as a football correspondent after his retirement. In 2021, he even hosted a sports show for CBS Sports Radio. The star was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child but never experienced seizures during his entire football career. Currently, he is constantly trying to become the voice for epilepsy awareness whenever he can.