Whoa! Matt Light has been playing with Crohn's disease for the last ten years
What's more, Light had a near-death experience in the summer of 2004. He was secretly hospitalized for a month, could not eat the entire time, and his condition so severe that he lost 55 pounds. The guy had to have 13 inches of his intestine surgically removed.
Matt Light still started all 16 games that season, and never let his illness known to his opponents.
Light did finally publicly acknowledged his illness, but not until minutes after his retirement ceremony Monday night. ESPNBoston's hard-working Patriots beat man Mike Reiss broke the news of Light's secret battle with Crohn's disease, and how it has affected Light his entire career.
"The pain became so difficult that in the offseason it just paralyzed me," Light told ESPNBoston. "I'd hit the ground. You can't wake up. You can't sit down. You can't do anything without this becoming a problem."
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes severe internal inflammation of one's gastrointestinal tract. Those who've suffered from Crohn's say the abdominal pain and fever symptoms are frequently quite intense. For many Crohn's sufferers, fever and abdominal pain are the least of their worries.
Despite the frequent agonies and discomforts, Light missed only 21 games in his ten seasons as a Patriot. He missed no games whatsoever after the summer of 2004 complications that nearly took his life.
Light recalls that difficult summer. "It came down to the fact that, 'Look, you have to have 13 inches of your intestine removed and it has to happen now and you could be on a bag the rest of your life. If there was anything else we could do, we'd do it, but you're getting blocked and there is nothing we can do for you other than this surgery.'" Light said. "When you have 13 inches of your intestine removed, that's not a very simple process."
"That happened in June," Light continued, "and I made it to training camp in the third week (of August), but not without having literally a near-death experience where I had another blockage post-surgery that I wasn't aware of -- all these complications."
Yet Light did not wish to make public his condition, and one can respect his reasons. The reality is that in the NFL, guys go after parts of your body that are known to be injured or injury-prone.
"How you battle Crohn's isn't something you ever want to talk about," Light said. "It's not something you want to share with other people. It's usually a very painful, ugly deal the whole way through."
NFL players David Garrard and Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain also suffer from Crohn's disease. Garrard, now a Miami Dolphins backup, has described the physical pain of Crohn's disease by saying, "Not even Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis hitting me from the blind side hurt that bad."