This is an auto-immune disease and there are a wide-ranging number of ways that it can impact people, this we know. We’re also aware, thanks to the statement that Travis released, that this was detected at a “fairly early stage” which is certainly not a bad thing. Outside of these few facts we know very little about this rare medical condition.
In the fallout of this news many people commented and tweeted about cases of GBS that were either personal, or about someone close to them. One of these people was former NFL offensive lineman and current analyst Mark Schlereth. He reached out and offered his advice, thoughts, and perhaps most importantly experience with GBS to Frederick on Twitter.
@tfrederick72 Travis I had this in 1993 while playing for the Skins. If I can answer any questions of be of service please feel free to DM me and I’ll pass along my contact info.— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) August 23, 2018
Schlereth only played in nine games for Washington back in 1993 when he notes having GBS, but it is worth noting that he played seven more seasons after this. What’s more is that he played in double-digit games in six of those seasons and played in all 16 regular season contests in four of them.
Naturally many were curious about Schlereth’s experience having GBS as an NFL player and many responded to his initial tweet at Travis. He finally responded to one of the many requests with a bit more analysis on what he experienced, but he was careful to caution that it might not be the exact road that Travis Frederick is currently heading down.
It affects everyone differently, I don’t want to send Twitter into uproar…I was very sick for a long time, missed the 2nd half of the 93 season & was still regaining my strength into the 2nd half of 94..lost all the feeling in my arms and legs for the better part of 6 months https://t.co/qhfW58PKCF— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) August 23, 2018
Dealing with GBS as a player obviously hindered what Schlereth was able to do which impacted his status with his team, then the Washington Redskins. This isn’t meant to sound cold at all, but Washington was going to move on if they felt that they couldn’t use Schlereth anymore.
While Mark Schlereth came out on Wednesday to offer details on his fight with GBS he also discussed it in the offseason following the 1993 season that he partly missed. From The Washington Post’s 1994 archives:
It was Guillain-Barre that produced the numbness in Schlereth’s hands and feet and made him feel so tired. He’d be dropping back into pass protection and just get into a guy when his legs would go out on him, “and I’d look like a fool,” he said. He wound up in the hospital for five days before doctors pinned down what was ailing him.
Doctors believe Guillain-Barre strikes one in 100,000 people, though more may be affected because patients may not know they have the condition and don’t seek treatment. It involves the destruction of the outside covering around nerves or the extensions of the nerve cells that carry signals. This short-circuits the route between the impulses sent from the brain and the body’s muscles and produces weakness in the body’s extremities.
The syndrome tends to move up the body, from feet to legs to thighs to hands. It can become dangerous and fatal when the muscles that control breathing or heartbeat are attacked and in the worst cases patients have to be put on artificial respirators.
”There’s a lot known about it,” said Ruben Cintron, the chief resident in neurology at Georgetown University Hospital. “We just don’t know why it happens.”
The condition has subsided, Schlereth said, in the past two months, and he feels no side effects. The chances of recurrence, doctors say, are remote.
Once again it is important to note that what happened to Mark Schlereth may not necessarily happen to Travis Frederick. They are two different humans with two different physiologies with two different immune systems. It should also be mentioned that Travis Frederick will be combating GBS with the technology and understanding of 2018 versus 1993.
Schlereth’s example is definitely one worth looking at and considering when trying to learn what Travis Frederick is up against. Let’s hope that Travis comes back strong and able to contribute like Schlereth did. Schlereth would go on to block for a 2,000-yard rusher in Terrell Davis and win two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos after his initial fight.