Usually when former NFL teammates come together it almost always involves family, fun or some kind of celebratory sporting event. Rarely is there a reunion dedicated to health education. But now, as several of my former Cincinnati Bengals teammates and I have aged beyond the 50 yard line in years, we were eager to Huddle Up in search of new treatments for Alzheimer’s. Not only did many of us participate in a memory screening to establish a baseline for our cognitive functions, but we also learned that Alzheimer’s is an illness that affects more than 5 million in the U.S and some 47 million worldwide. As our Baby Boomer population grows older, the number of those suffering from Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by the year 2050. Compared to other major diseases like cancer and heart disease, Alzheimer’s is the only major killer of people that is still increasing each year.
If you thought our main concerns as ex-NFL players were brain related injures resulting from concussions like CTE, then think again. In fact, of the more than five million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s, more than two-thirds are women who never participated in a collision sport. According to Dr. James Maynard, the Medical Director of CTI Clinical Research, Alzheimer’s is a result of a complicated defect in cellular synopsis in the brain, along with nerve entanglement and a building up of cerebral plaque. In short, Alzheimer’s is a destroyer of one’s memory.
During what was a memorable ’88 season and a run to Super Bowl 23, we had a talented and smart Cincinnati team that was full with stars like QB Boomer Esiason, HOF Tackle Anthony Munoz and the legal mind of Cris Collinsworth. It was a “Big Brain” locker room with great mental acuity. So now, after taking the test to gauge our memory, we were all elated to learn we had passed with flying colors, which means, when we tell the story about how Elbert Ickey Woods invented the “Ickey Shuffle,” everyone can still chime in about the hideous simplicity of that now famous touchdown dance. While we are no longer dancing in the NFL endzone, we are now more concerned about helping friends, family members and fans to live out their years with a high quality of cognitive health that is reminiscent of a wise old owl.