Apr 12, 2010

Does Playing Football Cause Dementia - Women Bring the NFL's Secret into the Light of Day

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Back in October, I started writing about new evidence that was coming to light indicating that an inordinately high number of X-NFL football players were suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's at a young age (see links at bottom of the article). It now appears that the issue is ready to heat up once again.

Eleanor Perfetto describes herself as "one very pushy broad". And, she might change the face of football in the United States if she wins her lawsuit.

Eleanor recently filed a worker’s compensation claim on behalf of her husband, Ralph Wenzel, asserted that his early-onset dementia was an occupational hazard of his seven seasons as a lineman in the N.F.L.

Eleanor is not alone. It should come as no surprise that women are ready to take on the National Football League (NFL).

Gay Culverhouse is another good example. Gay is the former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL team. She isn't happy about the current state of affairs. To back up her words she started a foundation to assist former NFL players in need.
The Gay Culverhouse Players' Outreach Program is dedicated to helping former National Football League players in accessing healthcare and disability benefits to which they may be entitled, through education, technical assistance, emotional support, and financial aid.
“I’ve got to see that someone stops this debacle before it gets any worse,” said Culverhouse, 62, the daughter of the former owner Hugh Culverhouse of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I watched our team do anything it could to get players back on the field. We have to make that right.”

Gay Culverhouse, the daughter of a former NFL team owner, has blood cancer and renal failure and has been told she has six months to live.

Sylvia Mackey, the wife of the former N.F.L. tight end John Mackey, took a more low key approached. She worked with the league and the union to start an assistance plan for families like theirs -- persons that are suffering from dementia.
The 88 Plan, the N.F.L.’s dementia assistance program begun in February 2007 and was named after John Mackey’s uniform number. In her letter to the former commissioner Paul Tagliabue she pleaded for help with her husband’s “slow, deteriorating, ugly, caregiver-killing, degenerative, brain-destroying tragic horror.”
Mackey is quick to say she appreciates the help she is receiving from the NFL. Sylvia is a caregiver.

Kwana Pittman is the niece of Andre Waters, a former NFL safety. She watched Waters, her mother’s brother, transform from upbeat and playful to profoundly depressed in only a few years before he shot himself in the head in November 2006. Waters was the third former N.F.L. player to have his brain identified with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease whose only known cause is repetitive trauma.

Dr. Ann McKee, a leading neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, is the primary doctor to identify trauma-induced damage in the brains of former players. Dr. McKee is working on a new area of research on the brain that has provided physiological proof of brain disease in athletes who have suffered concussions.

It seems woman are more concerned about the effects of playing football and the effects that repeated blows to the head can have on the future quality of life of X football players.

It is likely that the mothers of high school, college, and professional football players are going to start to worrying about the effects of football on the brains of their loved one's. This will be a good thing.

It is time for the NFL to take significant action to insure that current players won't suffer permanent brain damage that cannot be reversed.

It might be a good idea to send all NFL owners for a one week stay in an Alzheimer's care facility. Perhaps this will convince them that it is time to act now instead of waiting for additional scientific evidence.

This is actually an opportunity for the NFL to do something significant. Will they?

If women have anything to say about this issue change is coming. Sooner rather than later.

Also read:

60 Minutes A Blow To The Brain -- This is Your Brain on Football (Video and Text)

The NFLs Dirty Little Secret--Early Onset Alzheimer's at a Young Age

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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,500 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room