According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) an estimated 700,000 Americans are affected by Crohn’s disease, the inflammatory bowel disease that causes a collection of intestinal distress including pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue among other things.
Though your symptoms may be an obstacle, having Crohn’s disease doesn’t mean you have to bench your active lifestyle. Working with a gastroenterologist to find a proper treatment plan can help you stay in the game. Despite the challenges of Crohn’s, some very well known athletes have been able to rise to the top of their careers while conquering Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Some of these inspiring athletes include:
Tairia Flowers. Although this Olympic softball player took home gold in Athens in 2004, she suffered from Crohn’s Disease during the pre-Olympics tour. She was forced to go on bed rest and had been out for several weeks when the Olympics began. Her diet, consisting of only bread and plain pasta, was unusual for a competing athlete, but despite this, she persevered and won with her team.
Sarah Lang. While training at the Olympic Oval for the 2006-2007 World Cup trials, this member of the U.S. national short track speed skating team began experiencing severe abdominal pain and bleeding. A gastroenterologist confirmed that Lang had ulcerative colitis, a chronic illness that involves inflammation of the large intestine. After working with her gastroenterologist, Lang started a treatment plan that managed her symptoms and allowed her to continue training. She finished the season with her best World Cup results ever, including a top-five finish in the 1000-meter competition.
David Garrard. This former player for the Jacksonville Jaguars had a foot of his intestine removed after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. In 2005, he told The New York Times that he had believed he was suffering from a stomach bug and waited to seek help for over 3 months. Surgery and maintenance drugs helped him turn things around.
Carrie Johnson. This Olympic kayaker made it to three Summer Olympic Games despite her Crohn’s disease. In 2003, anemia, fatigue, and weight loss forced her to stop training and after many tests she was diagnosed with Crohn’s. Working with a gastroenterologist to manage the disease, Johnson qualified for her first Olympics in Athens a year later. Now retired from the sport, Johnson is a Crohn’s advocate and urges others not to be embarrassed by their condition.
George “the Animal” Steele. This World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) star was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1988 but at the time Steele resisted surgery to remove his colon. After years of taking many medications that caused other health issues, doctors removed his colon. He now has his health back and travels across the U.S. as a motivational speaker.
Kevin Dineen. This former professional hockey player started experiencing the symptoms of Crohn’s at the beginning of his hockey career. However, he found a treatment plan that worked for him and continued to play in the National Hockey League for 16 more years. He is now the head coach for the Canadian women’s national ice hockey team.
The symptoms of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can make living an active lifestyle seem impossible. However, working with a gastroenterologist to find a treatment plan that works for you can make a world of difference. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist today.