Percy Harvin: Chronic Migraineur, Kindred Sufferer

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has been struggling with chronic migraines just like many readers of this blog. If you don’t follow football you may not have heard of him. But let me assure you he is a high profile player in the National Football League and an important component of the Minnesota Vikings’ offense. Harvin has dealt with migraines since childhood (like me), but almost no one aside from family, friends and a few trusted members of the University of Florida football staff knew about them until the 2009-2010 NFL season when his attacks caused him to miss team practices.

Harvin was using Imitrex to treat his attacks and seemed to have good results with it despite continuing to have frequent attacks. Unfortunately, during one of the team’s preseason practices this year, Harvin collapsed on the field and his heart stopped. We later learned this was a reaction to his treatment medication rather than a migraine attack itself.

Harvin has done everything possible to find help for his migraines, but has not had much luck. He has been working closely with the Vikings’ team doctor and made multiple trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea earlier this season and he and his doctors believed the treatment used to control sleep apnea (CPAP) was successfully managing his attacks.

When we first found out about Harvin’s sleep apnea diagnosis and were told the CPAP machine seemed to be helping, I must admit I felt a little jealous. Although I want good results for everyone living with migraines on any level, it can be hard not to feel jealous when someone finds a straightforward solution and can return to the things they love and need to be able to do. Unfortunately sometimes a treatment that seems to target the main migraine culprit turns out to leave other triggers unaddressed. It soon became clear this is the situation for Harvin. He has other triggers that were not related to the sleep apnea diagnosis and he continues to experience brutal migraine attacks.

As of this writing Harvin has missed just two games as a result of his migraine attacks. Because he seems no closer to having adequate control of his attacks it is hard to say how his condition will affect his career in the NFL. We can only hope having a high profile, elite athlete on our team will help open some eyes to the burden of chronic migraine and, of course, that Harvin is able to find a preventive option that gives him his life back.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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