Forrest Gregg Diagnoised with Parkinson's: Why It Pertains to Today's NFL

Brendan O'HareContributor INovember 16, 2011

6 Sep 1998:  Former player and coach Forrest Gregg makes a speech during a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tennessee Oilers at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Oilers defeated the Bengals 23-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark Lyons  /Allsport
Mark Lyons/Getty Images

Men like Forrest Gregg are the reason I incessantly harp on the NFL's player safety policy.

Gregg, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who was everything god-making sportswriters dreamed of (which is a compliment to Gregg), announced today that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. Read this paragraph from the Associated Press, and try not to yell "WELL OF COURSE IT IS":

"Although the cause of the debilitating neurological disorder is unknown, Gregg, his family and his neurologist say his disease may be related to numerous concussions he suffered during his playing career in the 1950s at SMU and from 1956-71 with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys."

I'm going to take a guess and say that it is related, especially after a story where a collegiate Gregg "went over to the other team's bench" only to awake to an ice pack and delirium. Of course, that was a different time and era, and those in charge of football and health were not in full realization that blacking out after suffering head trauma was not a desired consequence. In a way, we still resort to medieval tendencies in the face of concussions, despite the fact that men like Gregg are walking results of what happens when a brain injury is taken lightly.

Someone like San Diego lineman Kris Dielman can see his season in jeopardy after not being removed from a game where he suffered a concussion. Referees are now supposed to be on-field epidemiologists, flailing plastic stethoscopes at players who just had their brain crash into the front of their skull. Players are fined for telling their wives "I'm fine", because the team forgot to do it for them. A "stinger" is an acceptable variation of "concussion."

Gregg played in a then-record 188 consecutive games, a few of which I would bet were played with a concussion. The doctors back then did not know any better, but they do today. It's just now, we refuse to take our knowledge into action, as players get stronger and faster and our moral fiber apparently gets weaker.

Forrest Gregg will now use his remaining time to raise awareness for Parkinson's disease, something that is both admirable and sad at the same time. It's a disease that would've been avoided had the doctors of his era had known such a thing existed, and that it could result from repeated head trauma (if you don't believe it did, look at any retired boxer ever and tell me that). We now have all the science to find out concussions and things of the like immediately, yet I am not sure that we have seen the last of the Forrest Greggs. Not for a long time.