Breaking down Darren Fletcher’s fight against ulcerative colitis

By Brian Kazaara, a medical student who will be taking a closer look at the injuries that surround football for AFR

When we think about football injuries, it’s natural to associate the sport with injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system, particularly the leg, knee, thigh, foot, and ankle.  Rarely do we hear of players suffering from diseases in their digestive tract. Darren Fletcher is an exception.

Darren Fletcher has been an essential part of Manchester United’s first team for over a decade. Starting as a youth team product and breaking into the first team in the 2003-2004 season, Fletcher eventually became a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad, as well as the captain of Scotland. During this spell, he won a number of personal accolades, including four Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy.  He has been praised by many for his loyalty and dedication to club and country. However, there has been a premature halt to his career due to health problems. 

On the 13th of December 2011, Manchester United released an official statement on their website reporting that Darren Fletcher would be taking an extended break from football due to his bout with ulcerative colitis. Thousands of fans probably googled 'ulcerative colitis' to check if that was simply one of those bones next to the metatarsal. It’s not. And the truth is that it can be far worse than any broken bone.

Reports claim that he had been suffering from this rare condition for years prior to taking this extended break. According to the club’s official site:

“Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness.”

Ulcerative colitis is a form of colitis, a disease of the intestine, specifically the large intestine or colon. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, it affects 1 in 1000 Americans, with Caucasians and people of Jewish descent being of particular high risk. It is known to cause particularly painful sensations and common symptoms include: sudden flare-ups of diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss, blood in stole and constipation. Rashes on skin and joint pains are examples of symptoms that manifest outside of the digestive tract. Unfortunately, it does not have a clear causation and many factors can lead to its existence.

The disease is particularly difficult to identify and treat. Ulcerative colitis is an intermittent disease, with periods of exacerbated symptoms, and periods that are relatively symptom-free. Colitis can also last an unpredictable amount of time. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease though treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms and can even lead to remission.

As Darren Fletcher experiences this unpredictable and serious disease, he still maintains optimism. He stresses that due to the nature of the disease he is not sure when he will be back. According to a story recently posted on the official club site Darren Fletcher had this to say:

"I’m still on the medication, I’m still not training, but slowly but surely I’m getting better I’m not putting a timescale on it (a comeback), I think that’s the best thing. With the condition it’s hard to tell.”

Ulcerative Colitis is known to affect individuals in unique and specific ways. One cannot say for sure what may happen next and the direct effect it may have on Fletcher’s career. According to a recently released interview, he has just returned to a stage where he can leave his home to come to games, but still cannot train.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the disease and how symptoms can sporadically fluctuate from a state of noticeable severity to a state of absent symptoms, there exists the chance that Fletcher may come back into the team and then succumb again to the symptoms. As reported, this is a disease that he has fought with on and off for years now. However, one comforting fact is that it seems both the club and individual do not plan to rush the process. Hopefully, when he does indeed return into the starting XI, he will have reached an appropriate level of improvement after such extensive treatment.

Comments below please. Or join the discussion on twitter @afootballreport.

  1. kkeshia reblogged this from ssgwhitedandy
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  3. umgarotoesperto answered: kd o santos merda
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  6. courage-counts reblogged this from afootballreport and added:
    last year. After having seen my Dad go through...through treatment I wouldn’t wish
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  9. jmanfredi answered: I’ve got Crohn’s and I couldn’t even imagine playing football at that sort of level on a regular basis. Good luck to him!
  10. cheekychip reblogged this from afootballreport and added:
    By Brian Kazaara, a medical student who will be taking a closer look at the injuries that surround football for AFR
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