Inside an NFL Player’s Battle with Crohn’s Disease
Seantrel Henderson had a storied journey through high school and college football, culminating in being drafted to the Buffalo Bills for the 2014 NFL season. He experienced much success in his early years and went on to play right tackle for the University of Miami following an impressive high school career. He was suspended and cited for marijuana use at various points in his life, but he was able to overcome these obstacles and make it all the way to starting as an NFL football player.
Photo credit: Fansided
Henderson played all 16 regular season games. In 2015, too, he played well and took on the heavy workload. However, a sudden unexpected threat befell his NFL career. Before the end of the regular season, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A significant part of his intestine was infected, forcing him to undergo surgery to remove it and reattach the remaining portion. It was hard for him to miss the game, but he also struggled with how to live with this disease. People with Crohn’s have to make major lifestyle adjustments for both their health and future. Diet, especially becomes a daily challenge. Henderson found himself having trouble meeting his dietary needs and weight requirements. When he was diagnosed with Crohn’s, he lost 25 pounds, and for an NFL player, a weight of 280 pounds is low. He knew that if he wanted to return to the football league, he would have to put on weight and recondition his body. However, he could not do this with the kind of diet he was used to.
Patients with this disease have malabsorption issues and a loss of appetite. For Henderson, one of his necessary workouts was eating. Inflammation and fatigue can occur at any time with Crohn’s disease, making eating and exercising difficult. To combat this, Henderson created meal plans that consisted of protein shakes, fruits, greens, and meats. He ate in excess so that his body could absorb the nutrients it needed. It was crucial for him to keep up his weight, but he also had to stay from certain foods that could make his symptoms more severe. These included low-calorie foods, dairy products, coffee, tea, alcohol, and any foods that cause gas. Flare-ups can occur if these foods are eaten and proper hydration does not take place. For an NFL player, this could mean having to forego play time on game day and missing practices.
He trained his body in such a way that he gained 345 pounds, which is an ideal weight for an NFL tackle. The key to success is eating enough, maintaining proper hydration, having a good diet, and eating healthy. In order to stay in the league, Henderson understood the importance of adjusting his diet, and some of the benefits he experienced were associated with his regimen. Exercise boosted his overall health, strengthened his immune system, kept his weight under control, upped his mental health, and relieved stress. Since he had to work hard each day, it was important for him to be positive and mentally stable.
Mental and emotional health are common benefits of exercise. In order to stay focused, it is incredibly important for NFL players to fight through injuries and physical pain as well as stay mentally sharp. Due to his regular exercise regimen, Henderson is now able to enjoy many benefits of exercise. He has set a good example for others on how to approach Crohn’s disease with positivity. His team, too, has been very supportive. To get Henderson back in the game, Eric Ciano, his strength and conditioning coach, and Shone Gipson, his trainer, worked with him closely. His coach, Sean McDermott, says he is happy with the way Henderson has handled his disease.