John Elway: On the Road to Relief: No Longer Plagued by Persistent Heartburn, the Former Pro Athlete Shares a Winning Strategy to Tackle the All-Too-Common, Painful Problem Head On

The Saturday Evening Post, July-August 2005 | Go to article overview

John Elway: On the Road to Relief: No Longer Plagued by Persistent Heartburn, the Former Pro Athlete Shares a Winning Strategy to Tackle the All-Too-Common, Painful Problem Head On


One of the top quarterbacks in National Football League history, John Elway was the driving force behind the Denver Broncos for 16 seasons, eventually leading the team to two consecutive victories at the "big game"--the Super Bowl in the 1990s.

While torn ligaments, sprained backs, and broken bones are all part of the game for pro athletes, they learn to work through it. But on and off the field, Elway was losing a battle against persistent and frequent heartburn. Suffering from the problem for over a decade, the pro athlete began to experience more troubling symptoms, and antacids no longer were effective.

"I finally got to the point during the season when at lunch I couldn't swallow," Elway told the Post. "I had heartburn for quite a while, but it just kept getting worse and worse. When I couldn't swallow and food was actually coming back up, I knew the problem was more than simple heartburn."

In GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the top of the stomach does not completely close, allowing the contents of the stomach to reflux, or back up, into the esophagus. The repeated exposure of vulnerable tissues of the esophagus to harsh stomach acid can lead to more serious consequences.

"I was totally in the dark about acid reflux, " admits John Elway, who struggled with GERD for a decade. "No one should tough it out like I tried to do. "

After consulting with his team physician, Elway discovered that, like millions of other Americans, he suffered from a condition called acid reflux disease--a potentially serious condition in which stomach contents, including stomach acid, flow backward into the esophagus. Repeated exposure to stomach acids can irritate and inflame the lining of the esophagus, causing heartburn pain or discomfort. Over time it can also increase one's risk for ulcers and esophageal cancer. Fortunately for Elway, subsequent tests, including a diagnostic exam called an endoscopy, revealed that the acid reflux had not resulted in any significant damage. …

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