GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers and NFL Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg is a proud man, but not too proud to go public with the fact that he has Parkinson’s Disease. Gregg says he wants to positively impact the more than 50,000 Americans who are diagnosed with the disease every year.
Gregg was one of the best offensive linemen in the history of football — all-pro eight seasons and a nine-time pro-bowler who played on seven championship teams and three Super Bowl winners.
The 6’4″ 250-pound Texan earned an Ironman tag by playing in a then-record 188 consecutive games from 1956 until 1971.
Now, the 79-year-old Gregg, who won so many battles, is facing the battle of his life. He’s fighting Parkinson’s Disease. A doctor who specializes in the debilitating neurological disorder told Gregg that it’s from the effect of the many concussions he suffered over 15 pro seasons.
Gregg’s symptoms include hand tremors, a stooped posture, shortened stride and soft voice.
The legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984 — at the age of 42. It’s a disease that is more common to head trauma from activities such as boxing and football.
A large group of NFL players are suing the National Football League because they contend information about the long-term dangers of multiple concussions was kept from them.
Wisconsin is one of 39 states to have approved legislation relevant to sport concussions and youth. Medical clearance is required for an athlete to return to practice or games after any concussion which is a major change from how things were managed before where athletes could monitor their own progress.
Gregg says he is glad so much more attention is being paid to players who suffer concussions today, as opposed to when he graced the gridiron.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but a combination of drugs, exercise and physical therapy can delay its devastating effects.
Gregg has gone public to spread awareness of the disease, but he says he wouldn’t change the path he has taken in life.
The man who coached the 1981 Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl before leading the Packers from 1984 through 1987 is glad Vince Lombardi was his coach. Lombardi called Gregg the greatest player he ever coached. Gregg found that out when he visited Lombardi’s widow Marie, and went through one of Lombardi’s books.
Like all of Lombardi’s former players, Gregg carries the man’s teaching in his mind and on his heart.
Sometimes, Parkinson’s causes Gregg to act out dreams he has while sleeping. During those times, Barbara Gregg — his wife of over five decades, never leaves his side.