Brock Lesnar: Understanding Diverticulitis, the Illness That Changed His Life

Louie Babcock@Medic_LouieContributor IIIApril 24, 2012

Picture from blogs.citypages.com
Picture from blogs.citypages.com

Brock Lesnar has returned to the WWE, and his return is one of the most talked about returns in years. His return, however, was based on the fact that he retired from UFC, and his battle with diverticulitis was the likely cause of his retirement.

Brock was one of the greats in UFC until it was discovered that he had diverticulitis, an illness that could have taken his life, had he waited much longer for treatment.

In November of 2009, Brock was diagnosed with mononucleosis, and later in the month it was discovered he had a serious case of diverticulitis. The condition was so serious, that surgery was required. Surgery is not the first treatment for this illness, and normally only done when severe risk of infection or other health risks to the patient require a surgical intervention.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a disease of the digestive tract, normally in the large intestine. On the colon of the patient, tiny pouches form. These pouches are called diverticula. When these pouches become inflamed, diverticulitis is diagnosed. Symptoms of the disease include; fever, lower left abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea. A blood test can also be done, and if a high white blood cell count is present, along with the above symptoms, the doctor can be assured of the diagnosis of diverticulitis.

Doctors are still unsure as to what exactly causes diverticulitis. The current theory is that increased pressure in the large intestine can lead to this condition. The thought process goes on to say that a lack of fiber in the diet leads to increased pressure.

Fiber is necessary for people because it aids the digestive tract. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements. When bowel movements become harder to pass, fecal matter gets backed up in the intestine. The backup of fecal matter increases the pressure in the intestine and in the colon.

Picture from ecureme.com
Picture from ecureme.com

This is an interesting theory, especially when you consider it in the case of Brock Lesnar.

Brock was a mixed martial artist for the UFC. This type of job puts the body under a great deal of stress, and forces the athletes to train, and fight while hurt. It is not uncommon for these athletes to have prescription pain-killers to help them work through the pain.

One of the main side effects of these types of pain-killers is constipation. Constipation is the inability to have regular bowel movements. It is not uncommon for someone to go a week without a bowel movement while on these medications. This alone could easily account for the increased pressure in the colon and intestine, that doctors believe cause diverticulitis.

On November 16, 2009, Lesnar underwent surgery for his condition. The surgeon had said that fecal matter was leaking into the abdominal cavity of Lesnar. This leakage was causing abscesses to develop, and it also forced Lesnar's immune system to work overtime. The anti-bodies of Lesnar's immune system were attacking the fecal matter as if it were a virus. The anti-bodies were not able to remove the fecal matter, and continued to attack it. Lesnar had become very susceptible to other illnesses and infection because his immune system was focused exclusively on his abdominal cavity. Surgeons went in, and closed up the perforations in his intestine that were leaking the fecal matter. This would not be the last surgery Lesnar would need for this condition.

In May of 2011, diverticulitis struck Lesnar again. Surgery was done once more, and Lesnar had a foot of his colon removed.

Picture from ecureme.com
Picture from ecureme.com

Brock Lesnar is incredibly lucky to be alive. Diverticulitis, left untreated can lead to serious problems.

Surgeons have said that the damage Lesnar had from the illness showed that he went undiagnosed with it for a year, and he had many fights in the octagon while he was undiagnosed with diverticulitis. At any time, a punch to his abdomen could have led to a rupture of one of the diverticula. The toxins released from a rupture like this could lead to a condition known as peritonitis. Peritonitis is when the tissue covering the organs of the abdomen become inflamed.ย Left untreated, peritonitisย is almost alwaysย fatal.

Lesnar retired from UFC after a match he had in December 2011. During this match, his opponent targeted the mid section of Lesnar. Lesnar may have realized that he dodged the Angel of Death once, and that he needed to step away from the octagon. His opponents would always target his abdomen, and Lesnar would likely always have fear in the back of his mind that the diverticulitis could come back. No man can compete in the UFC if they have any doubt about their own health.

Lesnar made the right decision. It is always important to choose health over a career.

Now, Lesnar has come back to the industry that made him a star. Lesnar is back with the WWE.

The environment of pro wrestling is still hard on the body, but it will be much safer for Lesnar in regards to his medical history. Lesnar will be able to compete knowing that he will not be subjected to repeated blows to the stomach.

I don't know if Lesnar really understands how close he was to dying. One thing that all athletes need to take away from the story of Brock Lesnar is to never ignore the symptoms your body tells you. The pain you are feeling could be nothing more than a pulled muscle, or it could be the beginning of a disease that could end your life.

It is far better to be safe than sorry.

You may also enjoy my article on the injury to Beth Phoenix, found here.

Louie Babcock has over five years experience working in emergency medicine, and is studying biology and health science at the University of Minnesota.

Follow me on Twitter@Medic_Louie


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