University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill recently had an epileptic seizure on the sideline. While this isn’t the first time it has happened, it is the first time this event has gained national attention.
The brain consists of a network of nerve cells that function similarly to a mass of electrical wires. Electrical impulses are the result of changes in the balance of chemical ions along the nerve cells.
A generalized tonic-clonic seizure, previously referred to as grand mal, is an event that results from an abnormal spark along these nerve cells. This creates a short circuit that spreads across the brain causing muscles throughout the body to contract uncontrollably.
Epilepsy is best defined as a condition of unprovoked recurrent seizures. It affects 3 million Americans. Controlling epilepsy is accomplished through the use of medications, lifestyle changes and possibly surgery.
The human body functions best when it reaches a state where everything is kept constant. That means eating, sleeping and exercising at the same time every day. Unfortunately, this presents a great challenge to controlling seizures in patients who have erratic schedules, including athletes and coaches.
The recent episode that involved Jerry Kill drew the attention of the press and fans, but his players and coaches were able to adjust and proceed with the game. This is due to the fact that he has been open about his condition and prepared them for this situation.
“How can a school continue to employ a football coach who has had four seizures during or after the 16 home games he has coached for the school?” wrote Jim Souhan, a Minneapolis sportswriter.
Souhan’s insensitive comments have raised the attention of many regarding epilepsy in athletes.
In order to more effectively manage epilepsy, athletes and coaches must carefully monitor workout, sleep and travel schedules.