Former Green Bay Packer Forrest Gregg has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Gregg is a nine-time Pro Bowler and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the NFL’s Iron Man, setting a record at the time by playing in 188 consecutive NFL games between 1956 and 1971. He is now locked in a battle with an enemy he can’t see, but whose affects he feels all to well.
Parkinson’s is a progressive, debilitating neurological disorder that leads to tremors (shaking) and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination.
The precise causes of Parkinson’s are unknown, but Gregg, his family and his doctor believe that his disease may be related to numerous concussions that he endured during his 15-year NFL career with the Packers and Cowboys. And while more research is needed to prove a link, studies have shown that recurrent TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries) have been linked as a potential risk factor for the occurrence or early expression of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Gregg, now 78-years-old, was diagnosed last month by Dr. Rajeev Kumar, medical director of the Colorado Neurological Institute’s Movement Disorders Center in Denver. He currently suffers from hand tremors, shortened walking stride, a stooped posture and a softened voice.
“I’d like to stop it there if I could,” he told the AP.
While there is no cure, treatment with a combination of drugs, along with exercises and physical therapy, can slow the progression of the disease significantly.
Gregg chose to go public with his battle to help promote understanding of the disease and push for funding for more research.
“I don’t pretend to say that I’m important to the scheme of things in the whole world, but I can do something and help along people who have this disease,” Gregg said. “So, I’m kind of just saying that I have it, I want to do something about it and I think I found the right people to help me along the line.”
“I had a friend who had Parkinson’s and he didn’t find out he had it until it was too late to do anything about it and we lost him and when I first heard this, you can believe me, it shook me up.”
Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy sent his wishes, on behalf of the whole Packers Family. “The thoughts, prayers and support of the Green Bay Packers are with Forrest, his wife, Barbara, and his family as he faces this new challenge in his life,” Murphy said.
“I had the opportunity to get to know Forrest last spring on our Packers Tailgate Tour and know he will use the same inspiring determination that marked his career and previous health challenges to serve him well as he adjusts to living with Parkinson’s.”
Gregg beat melanoma in 1976 and colon cancer in 2001. “This is not my first experience with a life-threatening disease,” he said. “So, I’ve got another battle to fight.”
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