FRISCO, Texas – For an NFL center, Travis Frederick has gotten pretty good at discussing the human nervous system.
What other choice could he have after his diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, the rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the nerves?
"I've walked it through a few times – several times, in fact," Frederick said. "Because the worst thing that happens is, we put out there that it was Guillain-Barre, and the first thing you do is Google it. And when you Google it, it looks like the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody."
In some cases Guillain-Barre can be terrible, even causing paralysis. Fortunately, Frederick found the problem early, mitigating some of those effects.
"Mine was a fairly slow-moving case to start and was kind of ramping up there at the end. But in its slow-moving process, I caught it early," he said. "By catching it early we cut off what would be the bottom end of it, which is paralysis and trouble with breathing and other body controls."
Frederick has followed an aggressive approach in the weeks since his diagnosis, undergoing IVIG therapy to help combat the issue. He has seen some strength return, and he said he's been cleared to begin some activities in the weight room.
But that is a far cry from a full-go, as Frederick acknowledged he is still dealing with several symptoms.
"Currently, I'm still experiencing numbness in both my feet and both my hands," he said.
If he had a desk job, Frederick even said he'd likely be able to get along just fine. The problem, of course, is that Frederick is a professional football player, and his job is to forcibly move massive men out of his way.
Needless to say, it's understandable why Frederick and the Cowboys aren't quite sure when he'll be able to do that again.
"I have no idea at this point -- and I wish I was lying to you by telling you that," Frederick said. "But when Coach Garrett tells you that this is a week-by-week thing, it really is. I have some of the best doctors in the business working on this, and they can't even begin to predict how this is going to work."
Again, though, the progress that has been made so far sounds encouraging. Frederick said he believes he has a monophasic version of GBS. That basically means that, once he has been treated, he has a very low risk of ever contracting it again.
That said, it's still going to take patience and perseverance to work back to full health. In a sport where players fight through injuries all the time, Frederick said this isn't an issue he can simply force.
"This is something that I can't just will my way through," he said. "It's a matter of the nerves just not conducting properly and not working correctly."
It might take patience, but Frederick reiterated that he feels relieved. During the team's three-week training camp, he was battling the numbness and an inexplicable loss of strength without knowing what the problem was. His thought process was that he was dealing with stingers or some other issue with his spine.
Having at least identified the problem has at least eased his mind a bit.
"It's hard looking forward not knowing what's coming as far as a recovery standpoint and when I can come back, but knowing that I will get back to 100 percent at some point is certainly relieving to me," he said.
While Frederick works toward his recovery, the Cowboys have left him on their active roster. It's not an indication of when he'll be back, but it is an encouraging decision. The Pro Bowler has not been far from his teammates at any point in the process, as he has attended practice and preseason games in the past two weeks.
When the Cowboys depart for Charlotte on Saturday, Frederick will be part of their travel party. While he might not be ready to return to action, he's not planning on missing out.
"As long as Coach will allow it, I plan on being with the team and trying to help in any way that I can," he said. "Even if I can't be out there physically, I hope that mentally and emotionally I can be a rock for them."