COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This week, the NFL Network reported Justin Fields has been dealing with and managing epilepsy, a neurological disorder that can cause seizures. The NFL Draft is less than a week away and Fields is projected to be a top 10 pick.
The recent news of Fields dealing with epilepsy has raised questions on how he’s managed it and whether it’s safe to play football. Two epilepsy specialists spoke with NBC4 about the disorder, which is very common and also very manageable.
“You don’t really know who has epilepsy. It’s often a silent disease,” said Dr. Emily Klatte, system medical chief of epilepsy at OhioHealth.
Until this week, hardly any one knew Fields was suffering from epilepsy. But Dr. Klatte says the disorder is more common than people might think.
“1 in 26 people have epilepsy so if you think about it that’s a lot of people,” she said.
Although it’s common, it’s also quite manageable.
“In about two-thirds of the cases, we can control the seizures pretty easily with medication,” said Dr. William Bell, the director of the epilepsy division at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center.
Dr. Bell said Fields and other football players are not at a higher risk of an episode if they suffer a concussion.
“There is a misconception that if you have a concussion, that’s a major cause of epilepsy and it’s really not,” he said.
Epilepsy can be diagnosed at any age and it can also be outgrown.
“Upwards of 70% of children who develop epilepsy can grow out of it,” Dr. Klatte said.
Dr. Klatte added that if someone outgrows epilepsy, it usually occurs in their late teens to early 20s.
Fields believes he will outgrow it based on family history with the disorder, according to the NFL Network.
“A big piece of management for epilepsy is lifestyle,” Dr. Klatte said.
Ohio State football head coach Ryan Day saw first hand just how well Fields takes care of his health during his two years in Columbus.
“He takes care of his body and his health,” Day said. “He went to a vegan diet, he takes all that very seriously and we never had any issue with his health.”
If Fields is selected in the top 10, he’ll be the highest Ohio State quarterback drafted since 1982.