Justin Fields is considered one of the top prospects in the quarterback-heavy 2021 NFL Draft, as well as one of the frontrunners to be selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the third overall pick.
However, a medical condition of his recently made public might give teams like the 49ers reason to pause and reconsider. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, of the NFL Network, reported that Fields suffers from epilepsy — a neurological condition that can result in seizures.
OSU QB Justin Fields has confirmed to NFL teams during the pre-draft process that he is managing epilepsy – a neurological disorder that can cause seizures, per me and @TomPelissero. It has not affected football & doctors believe he’ll outgrow it as his other family members have.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 21, 2021
Rapoport and Pelissero reported that NFL teams were made aware of Fields’ affliction during the pre-draft process. The quarterback’s condition was made public via the NFL.com news report on Wednesday, April 21.
Fields has Battled Epilepsy Since His Youth
The report continued on to say that while Fields was diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age, the progression of the illness has seen it grow weaker and affect him less, rather than become more severe with the passage of time.
Fields’ symptoms have lessened in strength and duration as he has gotten older, which has led medical professionals to the conclusion that he may “grow out of” the condition altogether at some point during adulthood, as have other members of his family who were also diagnosed with epilepsy.
The quarterback reportedly does not suffer seizures as long as he takes his prescribed medicine at doctor-specified intervals.
While his condition has not kept Fields from playing any scheduled football games in college, Rapoport and Pelissero reported that medical teams with NFL franchises potentially interested in drafting Fields, such as the 49ers, have held internal discussions about whether the epilepsy might put him at greater health risk were he to sustain a concussion or other specific types of injuries.
Football Reacts to News That Fields Suffers From Epilepsy
Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day took to Twitter on Wednesday and put his full endorsement behind Fields, who led the Buckeyes to the National Championship Game last season on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy Finalist and winning Big-Ten Offensive Player of the Year for a second time.
Justin’s health, toughness and work ethic have never been an issue and I am incredibly proud of his professionalism and the character he displays on and off the field. The fact that he never missed a game at Ohio State speaks volumes about how he takes care of himself.
— Ryan Day (@ryandaytime) April 21, 2021
“Justin’s health, toughness and work ethic have never been an issue, and I am incredibly proud of his professionalism and the character he displays on and off the field,” Day wrote. “The fact that he never missed a game at Ohio State speaks volumes about how he takes care of himself.”
Alan Faneca, who found himself inducted into the Hall of Fame on the strength of a 13-year NFL career, also battles epilepsy. He, too, went on social media Wednesday to offer a vote of confidence in Fields.
“If I did it, so can (Justin Fields), and so can anyone else,” Faneca wrote. “It is part of us, but does not define us!”
— Alan Faneca (@afan66) April 21, 2021
In their report, Pelissero and Rapoport noted that then-Baltimore Ravens safety Samari Rolle suffered three major seizures during the 2007 season. He was subsequently sidelined for six games, though returned to the team after medical professionals adjusted his medication.
Fields has never been a lock to go to the 49ers at No. 3, although he is considered one of two favorites to be selected there, along with Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. The 49ers did not release a statement on Fields’ condition, though they were presumably aware of it when the team attended his second pro day on Wednesday, April 14.