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The Reason Bills WR, John Brown, should not play on Saturday vs. the Denver Broncos



What’s up, Bills Mafia? 10-3 feels so good! I am doing my best to live in the moment and enjoy this. I have lived in New England for the majority of my life, so all I know is living in the shadows of the Patriots, who have been the AFC East leaders for the past couple of decades. Now, it’s our time! I am excited about Saturday because a win can clinch the division. However, I am perfectly fine waiting this week out and enjoying the spot we are in. With this week’s game occurring in Denver, I am going to give my input on what the Bills should do regarding WR John Brown. Spoiler: he should not play!

I know, John Brown’s return will be a huge addition to Josh Allen and the offense. On Tuesday 12/15, it was reported that the Bills designated John Brown to return from IR, which he was placed on after the game in Arizona when he suffered a high ankle sprain. He has missed the last three games per NFL rules and is now eligible to be activated to the roster for Saturday’s game in Denver. While his ankle may feel good, and he may look like he’s a full go in practice this week, it’s best for the Bills to sit him out this week. However, it’s not the ankle that should be why he is inactive on Saturday. It’s Brown’s diagnosis of sickle cell trait that should be why he sits this one out.

John Brown was diagnosed with sickle cell trait back in October of 2016, when he was playing for the Arizona Cardinals. This was an incidental finding actually and occurred due to a hamstring injury. Brown was evaluated due to complaints of sore hamstrings, but MRI’s revealed no damage. What actually was occurring was Brown was experiencing small amounts of muscle breakdown and this was a complication of having sickle cell trait. – ESPN’s Jamison Hensley

What is Sickle Cell Trait?

Sickle cell trait is a blood disorder where the individual has inherited a single copy of the gene that causes sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a disorder when the person has red blood cells that are “s” (sickle) shaped, and cause blood to flow backward. This backward flow of blood can result in strokes, infections, and crises, which are extremely painful. Brown does not have Sickle cell disease, and it is important to know that. He will never develop the disease either, as that is impossible. Brown can pass this trait to his children should he have any, though. Here is a picture via to help see the difference in the shape of normal red blood cells and sickle cell shaped red blood cells. As you can see, the sickle-shaped cells block the flow of normal shaped cells, causing a back flow and pooling of the blood cells.


While people with this trait do not experience the same symptoms as individuals with sickle cell disease, they can experience similar complications. The most common one is a sickle cell crisis. Sickle cell crisis is extremely painful and requires the individual to be given high-quality pain medication, supplemental oxygen, and IV fluids. Sickle cell crisis can be experienced when the individual is in an area of increased pressure, low oxygen levels in the air, and high altitudes.

Impact on Sports participation

Piggybacking from above, we see being in areas of high altitude and low oxygen can be harmful to those with sickle cell trait. When the Bills travel to Denver, CO, this weekend, they are entering an area of the country that fits this criterion. Being up in the mountains, the altitude is very high, and oxygen levels can be lower than what the Bills are used to in Orchard Park and most other areas they play.

What could happen if John Brown were to play in Denver? Brown is at an increased risk of his red blood cells becoming sickled, which could result in a backflow of blood causing severe pain, muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), and reduced blood supply to his organs (ischemia). Brown is also subject to severe hypoxia (low oxygen intake), severe dehydration, temperature imbalances (hypothermia or hyperthermia), and an increased release of inflammatory cells. These complications can be very serious if not treated emergently, and can, unfortunately, lead to serious problems and sometimes death.

Bills Mafia is excited at the prospect of John Brown returning to the lineup. Josh Allen and Brian Daboll are excited to get him back. I’m excited for him to come back. But it is not worth the risk to put him in the lineup on Saturday in Denver. Another week of will do wonders for his ankle. The week off is also in his best interest for his overall health. While Bills fans and I love this team and love football, it’s important to remember that its just a game. It is not worth risking serious complications to John Brown by having him play.

Don’t forget: a win on Saturday clinches the AFC East. If they were to lose to Denver, a Miami Dolphins loss on Sunday to the Patriots also clinches the division for the Bills. Let’s hope the Bills are AFC east champions by Sunday afternoon!

Thanks for reading!

As always,

Go Bills!