This is the fourth article in a five-part series about figures in the sports world that have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Back in NFL’s earliest years, offensive tackle Forrest Gregg helped establish the Green Bay Packers as one of the all-time great franchises, leading them to five championships. He set a then-league record with 188 consecutive games played from 1956-71, and won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. Gregg also served as a head coach for the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and the Green Bay Packers and coached at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University. His finest season as a coach occurred in 1981, when he led the Bengals to a 12-4 record and a victory in the AFC Championship game. Gregg made nine Pro Bowl teams and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
In February 2011 Gregg noticed that something was wrong when he gave a talk at his old high school in Sulphur Springs, Texas. ”Being a football player and a coach, those guys are all loud, and I noticed that my voice had softened considerably,” Gregg said. “And I wasn’t getting around as well as I had been. I started to stoop over. And I didn’t like that.” Gregg’s left hand had also started to tremble.
Gregg sought medical attention and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in October 2011 by Dr. Rajeev Kumar, a Parkinson’s expert and medical director of the Colorado Neurological Institute’s Movement Disorders Center in Denver. Dr. Kumar believes that multiple concussions that Gregg sustained during his football playing career led to the onset of Parkinson’s later in his life.
Gregg went public to help others recognize symptoms and get treatment early enough before degenerative effects occur. ”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.
His symptoms include hand tremors, stooped posture, shortened stride and a softened voice. He also had REM sleep behavior disorder, a condition where Gregg acted out his dreams, often violently. This may have been a warning sign for Parkinson’s disease. Currently, Gregg is on medications to slow the progression of his disease and treat his sleep behavior disorder.