By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Cowboy center Travis Frederick thought he’d injured a nerve, perhaps during practice. Called ‘stingers’, the injuries are common in high contact sports, but further tests confirmed that the tingling in Frederick’s neck and shoulders was Guillain-Barre.

Cowboys’ center Travis Frederick calls out the defense. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

“This is sort of a bunch of diseases that affect the peripheral nervous system, those are the nerves that affect the arms and the legs and the face and sometimes even the lungs,” says Gregg Shalan, M.D., a neurointensivist with Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “Thought to be an autoimmune process where the body attacks its own tissue and causes the disease.”

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Often triggered by a prior infection, patients can experience weakness and tingling in mild cases. In more severe situations, ‘ascending paralysis’ can even limit a person’s ability to breathe independently.

“It can be life threatening in the most serious cases,” adds Dr. Shalan.

Frederick released a statement about the diagnosis Wednesday, saying he is already undergoing treatment and feeling stronger. Adding, “I am very optimistic about my condition and the immediate future, as I have been told that the illness was detected at a fairly early stage.”

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Experts say Guillain-Barre is rare, but serious–with no known cause, and no specific cure. There is, however, effective treatment, with every patient following a different path to recovery.

“We’ve seen people who are completely ventilator dependent, completely paralyzed walk back into the hospital a year later,” says Dr. Shalan. “So, about 60 percent make a full recovery… and the rest will have some sort of deficit, either major or minor.”

That could mean residual weakness for years. Still, there is reason for continued optimism says Dr. Shalan.

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“The majority of people with this disease do very well when they receive the appropriate therapy.”