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ProFootballDoc: Justin Fields’ Seizure Disorder Should Not Affect His Draft Stock

Medical concern about projected first-round quarterback Justin Fields has emerged after a report that he has epilepsy

The former Ohio State signal caller has been dealing with the disease since childhood and is taking medication. It did not affect his collegiate career and should not affect his NFL career.

There are many different causes of epilepsy that can lead to many different types of seizures. A “grand mal” (tonic-clonic) seizure is the stereotyped severe form that affects the whole body. This is extremely scary for the observer but actually is not particularly dangerous for the patient. It is caused by abnormal electrical signals in the brain. 

Seizures, especially in the young, are typically well controlled with medication and usually subside as one gets older. New onset seizure in an adult is very concerning. The fact that Fields has had it since childhood, been worked up for it, has it under control with medication and has had no episodes recently are all positive signs that it will not interfere with football or his life.

In some ways, a seizure could be compared to a severe “cramp” of the brain as opposed to that of a muscle. Most of us have experienced a muscle cramp, and it is very scary and debilitating. However, once it passes, a person can quickly get back to normal without any residual effects. The same can be said for seizures. There typically is no brain damage. A person’s intelligence, reaction, athletic ability, and overall mental capacity is not affected by seizure disorders (except for perhaps some very temporary confusion immediately following the incident.)

In my time as an NFL head team physician, we have encountered players with epilepsy who have had normal professional football careers. Of course, a full medical workup is needed, but childhood seizure disorder is usually a very benign disease with zero-to-minimal impact for players. As an orthopedist, I always consulted with my medical associates and experts to be sure. There has not been any association to higher rates/risk related to concussion or CTE.

As the draft is one week away, expect more of these revelations to come given the unusual year and limited Combine exams. The draft has even become ripe for legalized wagering. Tomorrow, we will profile all the top draft medical issues by position, starting with QBs, here at OutKick and at www.profootballdoc.com to educate readers on what to expect.

Written by Pro Football Doc

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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