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Living with epilepsy can be daunting and even dangerous, but for many of the 50 million people around the world living with the condition, it is something that they’ve been able to triumph over in their everyday lives.

One of the major challenges is living with epilepsy as an adult. Being an independent individual and coping with seizures at the same time has its challenges. Add an active lifestyle to the mix, and the difficulties only mount. Despite their obstacles and suffering, many athletes have found success and continue to redefine what living with epilepsy looks like.

Here are five well-known athletes who have found triumph through the challenges of epilepsy:

1. Olympic Medalist Marion Clignet

Marion Clignet - Special Needs Essentials Credit:

French-American cyclist Marion Clignet has said that her struggles with epilepsy actually equipped her to win two Olympic silver medals. And there’s no doubt that she’s right: she actually lost her driver’s licence because of her seizures, which influenced her to take up cycling in the first place. Clignet would go on to pick up a couple of Olympic medals, win six world titles and nearly 200 other races.

2. Major League Baseball Player Greg Walker

Greg Walker - Special Needs Essentials

Among the many MLB players to overcome epilepsy and shine with high-profile careers is Greg Walker, former first baseman and power hitter for the Chicago White Sox. He also coached the MLB team before finishing his career with the Atlanta Braves last year. After collapsing on the field once and again later on that night in the hospital, Walker found relief for two years with anticonvulsant medication.

3. Champion Boxer Terry Marsh

His fight against epilepsy prepared Terry Marsh to be a pro fighter and an undefeated world champ in the light welterweight division. He won the ABA senior amateur championship three times and went on to be the professional and welterweight world champion. Marsh retired as the first European boxer to retire as an undefeated world champion.

4. Basketball Player Mighty Mike Simmel

Mighty Mike - Special Needs Essentials

Hailing from the Harlem Wizards, a show basketball team, “Mighty Mike” has suffered from epilepsy seizures ever since he was a toddler. Though he’s found triumph, he doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that he’s had many difficult experiences throughout his life.

As a speaker for the Epilepsy Foundation, Mighty Mike continues to inspire others with stories of how his life changed when his father handed him a basketball. Playing sports helped him develop coordination skills and overcome the obstacles found in living with epilepsy.

5. NFL Football Player Jason Snelling

Not only is Jason Snelling a former Atlanta Falcons running back, he’s also a well-known supporter of the Epilepsy Foundation. After Snelling was diagnosed with the condition in college, he persevered with treatment and went on to have a successful career as a pro athlete. To this day, he works regularly with the Epilepsy Foundation to raise awareness, speaking out about his own experiences to inspire others living with the condition.

Famous Footnote:

You’d never know it, but there are lots of famous folks living with epilepsy, conquering adversity in the public eye! We’re inspired to learn that these celebrities are also coping with epilepsy every day: Lil Wayne, Prince, Neil Young, Susan Boyle, and Danny Glover.

Who inspires you? Drop by our Facebook page and share your story!


Epilepsy Awareness Month - Special Needs Essentials

As a voice in the special needs community, we understand that living with epilepsy is difficult. People with epilepsy deal with multiple challenges, stress, and physical and emotional pain. Thankfully, awareness and education are great ways to shed light on this condition and work towards progressive solutions. That’s why celebrating November Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM) is so important.

Also known as a seizure disorder, epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition.

Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or genetics, but often the cause is unknown. Epilepsy is more common than you may think. Check out these surprising numbers to get the details.

  • 65 Million: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy
  • Over 2 Million: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy
  • 1 IN 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime
  • Between 4 and 10 out of 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time
  • 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year
  • ONE-THIRD: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them
  • 6 OUT OF 10: Number of people with epilepsy where the cause is unknown

DareTo Defy the Odds - Rick Harrison

The National Epilepsy Foundation is a leading resource for people with epilepsy to learn their treatment and therapy options as they strive to become seizure-free. Last year, the National Epilepsy Foundation launched a new year-long education and awareness campaign called #DareTo. The campaign focuses on breaking down the barriers that can prevent people with epilepsy from reaching their fullest potential. They challenged the general public to post their dares over social media to spread awareness and spark inspiration.

“My epilepsy taught me to be a fighter,” said Rick Harrison, a spokesperson for the National Epilepsy Foundation and star of the hit TV program Pawn Stars. “ When I said I wanted to make a TV series out of my pawn shop, people thought I was nuts. But I dared to defy the odds, and Pawn Stars was born. If you have epilepsy, dare to live to your fullest potential. The Epilepsy Foundation will help you dare.”

The Epilepsy Foundation is an unwavering ally in raising awareness, providing support, and funding research to bring new treatments and therapies to market in a time frame that matters for people with seizures. People living with epilepsy, their families and their caregivers are served by their network of more than 40 Epilepsy Foundation affiliates around the country.

Local Foundation affiliates provide information and referral assistance; maintain individual and family support services; serve as advocates for the rights of those with epilepsy; and offer community-based education to employers, emergency first-responders, school nurses, and other allied health professionals. Find your local Epilepsy Foundation here.

How to you #dare to make a difference? Drop by our Facebook page and share your stories.

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