14 Oct University of Minnesota Football Coach Jerry Kill Highlights Epilepsy
“It should take you about three minutes to read this. That’s how long the worst of Jerry Kill’s epileptic seizures last — arms and legs spasming, eyes rolling up, jaw clenching. Imagine that for these three minutes. Imagine every muscle of your body firing out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
That paragraph, the lead in an ESPN commentary by Rick Reilly, distinguishes the start of one of the many articles that hit the news the first week of October, following an epileptic seizure during a game by University of Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. He has subsequently decided to take a leave of absence from his job to manage his illness. At Advanced Neurological Associates (ANA), we emphasize our important role as part of the community of adult epileptics. Jerry Kill is in that community.
Kill, who had previously experienced several seizures during games, suffered a seizure on the sidelines in front of 50,000-plus fans during a game on September 10. It was probably the best epilepsy education possible for the public, an education that Kill, with no shame in his epilepsy, has tried to provide himself. The event precipitated widespread media coverage, public awareness and a much needed open discussion of epilepsy.
Kill, who estimates he has had 20 such seizures over the past two years, developed epileptic symptoms ten years ago, at age 43. No one knows why: whether genetic, a serious car accident, or even due to the concussions he suffered as a football player.
Originally, Jerry Kill didn’t speak out about his epilepsy, until, unbelievably, he began to receive hate mail with prejudicial comments following seizures witnessed by fans. He began speaking out for the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. He has invited a group of young children with epilepsy to meet with the team at a practice. Kill has become part of the effort by epilepsy organizations and experts who seek to de-stigmatize the condition.
Jerry Kill has received medical advice and treatment, and has made lifestyle adjustments and is taking medication.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures (convulsions) over time. Seizures are episodes of abnormal brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Epilepsy may be due to a medical condition or an injury that affects the brain, or the cause could be idiopathic. There are 2.3 million people in the U.S. living with epilepsy, and 150,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. One in 26 people will be diagnosed at some point in their lives.
Like millions of others with epilepsy, Jerry Kill is determined to continue to live a normal life. At ANA, it is our goal to contribute to making this possible for others–children as well as adults.