DeMarre Carroll lives with, plays through liver disease; working to spread awareness

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A year before he was drafted into the NBA, DeMarre Carroll thought his NBA dreams were dead.

He was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, something he opened up to Jared Zwerling of the NBPA about.

It was July 2008, and DeMarre Carroll, then a rising senior at Missouri, started having an itching feeling all down his legs.

The itching got so bad that Carroll was scratching his skin off and he was bleeding. His girlfriend at the time thought it was allergies because they had just gotten a dog. About a month later, he had blood drawn that showed his liver enzymes were very high. But some more tests revealed he had a rare form of liver disease….

“That’s when you have to either become strong mentally or you’re going to become weak,” Carroll recently told the NBPA, reflecting on that life-changing moment. “I feel like that’s when I took that step. That one incident has helped me mentally, so anything I go through now doesn’t compare to what I went through back then.”

Carroll is now on medications that keep the disease and its symptoms in check.

Now, with his newfound fame and solid standing in the NBA, he has set up a foundation and is working to help spread awareness of liver diseases and to help people with prevention.

“I’m basically the first NBA player that played that I know of with a liver disease, and I’m trying to be an advocate for it,” he said.

With the support of the NBPA Foundation, Carroll is in the process of creating an informative and interactive educational component on his foundation’s website. The purpose is to provide a fun learning guide for the youth, ages 5-18, on the use, function and importance of the liver. They’ll also discover the 100-plus liver diseases that affect people their own age…

“You hear so much about the heart and about other organs, but you never hear about the liver,” he said. “And I feel like the liver is such an unsaturated market. I want to really step up and be the person to make my voice heard on a high level, so people can really understand that the liver is also affected.”

Good on Carroll.  You should read the entire NBPA story.

A lot of NBA players have charitable foundations, but the personal commitment to them varies widely. It’s just a tax shelter for some, something a family member or friend runs. Carroll is not that way. He is hands on, reaching out and working to do good in an area he’s passionate about — he visits children’s hospitals, he gets involved on a personal level.

He’s going to help some people, and that matters a lot more than basketball.