A game with two new champions

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, coached by Jerry Kill, play Big Ten football at the Minneapolis TCF Bank Stadium

In today’s post I’m departing from my usual focus on video games as a seizure trigger. With National Epilepsy Awareness Month coming to a close, it’s seizures in the context of the real-world game of football that recently caught my attention.

No one has done more this month than University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill and his athletic director Norwood Teague to educate the public about seizure disorders.

The coach had a seizure last weekend during a game against Michigan State. It was his second game-time seizure in as many months, and his third in two seasons at Minnesota. He has needed to leave the game when they happen, and in the first two instances he was admitted to a hospital. On Saturday he rested and went home to recuperate. The seizures, which Kill has experienced for years, have become more frequent, and the stresses during a game are probably adding to his seizure vulnerability. He was back at work on Monday.

The Epilepsy Foundation should publicly recognize Kill and Teague with some kind of award for doing the right thing:  doing what’s necessary to carry on, taking preventive measures, and not making too big a deal about it. The players have been publicly very supportive as well.

Teague said at a post-game news conference:  “I know this will bring up questions about him and moving forward, but we have 100 percent confidence in Jerry…He’s as healthy as a horse, as they say. It’s just an epileptic situation, or a seizure situation, that he deals with. He has to continue to monitor all the simple things in life, like we all do — you watch your diet, watch your weight, watch your stress, watch your rest. He just has to watch those things…You don’t want to downplay it, but you get to the point where you realize it’s just something he has to deal with at times. You don’t want to say it’s not a big deal, but in a way, it’s easy to deal with in a lot of ways.”

Yesterday Teague added that he will be looking to offload some of his coach’s responsibilities until Kill’s medical condition stabilizes. He stated this in a very positive way. “Is there doubt now about him moving forward? Absolutely not…We have to do a better job here of managing around him…I have to do a better job of helping him. I can take some things off his plate that other coaches can do.”

Kill’s condition and the way he and his management have handled it provide valuable lessons about seizure disorders. For starters, most people who have seizures:

  • Are regular folks, able to live pretty normal lives during seizure-free stretches
  • Aren’t unusual. About one percent of the population has epilepsy
  • Aren’t looking for special treatment but may benefit from reducing stress during periods of increased seizure activity
  • Can’t predict the next seizure, although certain situations–both internal and external–are triggers. (Some people experience auras beforehand.)
  • Do not experience a medical emergency while seizing
  • Require rest and can’t function properly for at least several hours after an episode

There’s no way to tie my thoughts on this directly back to video games and seizures. It just needed to be said.

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