Dallas Cowboys

In his own words: Travis Frederick updates his comeback from Guillain-Barre Syndrome

What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

This whiteboard-style video will provide you with a basic understanding of Guillain-Barré Syndrome and answer some of your questions.
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This whiteboard-style video will provide you with a basic understanding of Guillain-Barré Syndrome and answer some of your questions.

Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick missed all of last season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in training camp.

He is participating in the team’s off-season program with hopes of being fully cleared to return by the start of training camp.

It’s been a long, arduous and emotional road back that includes questions about possible multiple sclerosis and polio before he was finally diagnosed with the rare auto-immune disease that initially stumped his doctors and had the former Pro Bowler wondering if he would ever play again.

Frederick, who is also recovering from shoulder and hernia surgeries, will be limited in OTA’s and minicamp to protect himself. He said he won’t know for sure about 2019 until he takes real reps in training camp.

Per the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barre is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body.

Following the 105.3 The Fan Mudbug Bash in Arlington on Saturday, he offered an update on his recovery and comeback.

How is the off-season program going?

“I have been working out with the team. We eased kind of back into that to make sure that everything’s healthy and stable before we start going heavy, but as far as on-the-field stuff, I’m doing almost everything. We’ll have some stuff modified in OTAs, but most of that is for the shoulder. You don’t want to re-injure something while it’s coming back from the surgery. But as far as on the field, I feel good, and in the weight room in my other auxiliary lifts, I’m doing really well there as well. So for the most part, I feel really good. We won’t know until I get out there and put the pads on and take my first rep whether or not it’s going to go well.”

Where are you with the Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

”I feel good about where I am at. It’s hard to judge percentage where you are at because the only thing we have to judge off of is strength numbers. We haven’t been able to get to the strength numbers because I am not benching. I don’t have a bench standard and I am not squatting. I am rebounding from hernia surgery as well so I am still easing back in after that.”

Had you ever heard of this illness?

”I had never heard of it. Neither did most people, not even the doctors. The neurosurgeon had only seen it twice. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the country. When you have something that rare, that’s when you know there is something going on. That is why it took a little bit for the diagnosis. It’s hard. There are a lot of things it could have been leading up to it. I give a lot of credit to our training staff. They kept on it. They kept trying to figure something out.”

Did it shock you that the doctors and noted spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins had little knowledge of Guillain Barre-Syndrome?

”That was the most worrisome part. I went to the specialist and he was supposedly the best and he told me my neck was fine. I was having issues with stingers but it wasn’t because of my neck, which is what causes stringers. At that point, it’s ringing all the bells. There is something going on here that needs to be addressed.”

What did they think it was or could be?

“There were a lot of things thrown out over the course of time. It behaves a lot like M.S. It behaves a lot like polio, West Nile. A lot of things as you do more tests you rule those out. There is not a test that says this is what it is. It’s a combination of the symptoms and ruling out all of those things. The one that tells it mostly is a combination of a brain scan and a spinal tap. You take some of the fluid and find out what is going on.”

When did know something was wrong? Was it when DT Antwaun Woods got the best of you?

“I knew from the beginning that something wasn’t right. I had people in the organization that said they knew at the beginning something was wrong. I had no problem in minicamp. It was the first day of training camp that I felt numbness in my toes on the charter on the way out there. For most training camp I practiced without being able to feel my toes or my hands. So when I snapped the ball I just trusted that the ball was there. You have a certain feeling when it hits the quarterbacks hands. I knew Dak (Prescott) well enough that it was there. The most telling thing, the reason we really looked into, more so than the numbness, was in the weight room and not be able to do much. In training camp, the weights are not that heavy and when I couldn’t do that, that is when it’s a red bell. Those are things you see in one on ones, getting pushed back. It could be because I was tired or having an off day. But when you have that and can’t feel your feet, it’s hard to maintain any sort of balance.

Did you think you might not play again?

“That thought crosses your mind. That thought crosses your mind certainly at diagnosis and again when it was declining to the point where I was having a hard time walking. Those things definitely happened. But once the improvement started and it happened at such an impressive rate it makes you think, ‘OK, maybe there is a chance here, and if it continues at this rate, I don’t see any reason why I can’t be back to 100 percent.’”

Any doubt in your mind that you will be ready to go in training camp and play in 2019?

“I feel confident in my ability to do it. But we really won’t know until I get out and do it again. I feel good in everything that I’m doing, and everything’s been on schedule or ahead of schedule. So I feel good. I’m excited to get back out there.”
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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.