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My name is Brian Warner and I have had chronic back pain for as long as I can remember. At times it was so severe that I was unable to stand or walk without aid. Regardless, I found a way to play my favorite sport and ultimate hobby: paintball. When I started playing competitively in 1995, I was able to run and compete (coming in as high as third place) at the highest levels nationally and internationally. Because of my decreasing mobility, I could still compete but only at a decreased level. Playing was painful, but paintball is my passion. I cannot live happily without it.
In February 2006, after 10 fruitless years of doctor visits, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and pills, I was diagnosed with an advanced case of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). I have since started taking Humira, which has significantly reduced my pain and dramatically increased my mobility. But while Humira helps, it is not a cure. It is also a drug treatment that is not covered by all insurance policies. I am lucky in that my insurance picks up the tab: about $30,000 annually.
It took 10 years before someone recognized my condition for what it was. It is now my mission to generate both awareness and revenue for AS treatment and research so that others do not have to endure what I did. My goal is simple: create a vehicle to accomplish this mission through extreme sports, specifically my passion for paintball. Athletes Joined Against Spondylitis (AJAS) will be that vehicle.
Why Extreme Athletes
While the genesis of this project is paintball, its scope is not limited to this one sport. AS patients are predominantly young men; extreme athletes are predominantly young men. Paintball is the third largest “extreme” sport in terms of revenue, behind only skateboarding and in-line skating, and is the only sport of its kind that promotes a teamwork environment, which is why it is appealing as the launch point for AJAS. In recent years paintball’s popularity and growth has attracted prime-time television coverage from Fox Sports, ESPN and more, as well as team and event coverage from numerous trade publications and Web sites.
To learn more about Ankylosing Spondylitis, Athletes Joined Against Spondylitis or Team FUSE, contact Brian Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org.