Amobi Okoye Continues His Comeback From Rare Memory-Stealing Disease

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Amobi Okoye’s comeback from the rare disease that left a 145-day gap in his memory is almost complete. Okoye has been cleared by Dallas Cowboys trainers for participation in contact drills, and he has a chance to play in the Cowboys third preseason game.

Okoye’s troubles date back to March 2013, when he contracted the extremely rare disease Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis -- an auto-immune reaction that causes brain inflammation as antibodies interrupt neural communications.

Okoye was put in a medically induced coma after contracting the disease and remained in the coma for four months. Okoye obviously has no memories from his time in the coma, but get this: he also remembers nothing from the month before he was put down and from several weeks after he was awakened.

Dallas News writer Richard Sabin did an in-depth piece on Okoye’s recovery this week, and said that for a while after Okoye was taken out of his coma he only “spoke gibberish” and would often “laugh for no reason.”

His condition gradually improved over the next several months, and in December 2013 Okoye said he wanted to play football again. This offseason, the Cowboys signed him to a two year deal with no guaranteed money. The signing was made at the recommendation of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Since his signing, the Cowboys medical staff has meticulously tracked Okoye’s progress to ensure he’s fit to play football. They run tests regularly and have taken hundreds of brain scans to pin down his proper neurologic baseline. 

Though Okoye's not ready for game action yet, head Cowboys trainer Jim Maurer says he’s close.

“Anything involving the brain, we’re obviously going to make sure how he’s doing, so he’s doing neuro-site testing just like everyone else would, trying to create baselines,” Maurer told Sabin. “He’s not ready to get in the game yet. But he’s taking these baby steps to come back.”