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Brain Disorders

5 Famous Athletes With Dementia

Athletes, superjocks, and sports professionals are known for their lavish lifestyle during and after their playing careers. Baseball, football, running, golf, etc have always been one of the highest paying games.

However, not every sportsperson gets to enjoy his/her twilight years rejoicing in the fond memories of the past. Who doesn’t like living the glorious past again in the form of stories, narratives, and anecdotes? 

That’s what this post is about. I have discussed the lives of the most famous athletes with dementia.

Before you move ahead with the list, it would be helpful to know that dementia is one of the rapidly growing diseases of modern times.

Take Hawaii for example. Currently, there are 29,000 people aged 65 years and older with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number is expected to increase to 35,000 by 2025

Here is the List of Famous Athletes With Dementia

1. Betty Robinson – American Olympic Track Athlete

Betty Robinson famous athletes with dementia

Elizabeth R. Schwartz (also named Betty Robinson) was an American athlete who won two gold and one silver medal in the Olympics. Born on August 23, 1911, in Riverdale, Illinois, she was poised to become the nation’s greatest runners. 

She was the first-ever woman on earth to win a gold medal at the Olympics. She won the 100-meter race for women in the Amsterdam Olympics. Sooner, she went on to won another silver in the 4×100 relay race. And then, another gold at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

In her later years when Betty worked as a sports official, she was diagnosed by Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Naturally, it was a major blow for her and her son. She took her last breath in 1999 in Colorado. She died at the age of 87.[1]

2. Tom Fears – American-Mexican American Football Coach

Tom Fears famous athletes with dementia

Tom Fears was one of the best Mexican-American football players the world had ever seen. He played a total of nine seasons (from 1948 to 1956) for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (NFL).

Fears had a great career. Even after retiring as a football player, he stayed in touch with the game by taking on a job as NFL assistant coach and head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Such was his passion for the sport. 

In his late years, he and his wonderful wife Luella wanted to move a classy high-class neighborhood in Palm Desert, California. The plan was to spend the rest of their lives rejoicing in the fold memories of the past. 

However, call it god, nature, or the universe had other plans for Fears. In 1994, he was diagnosed with a brain disorder called Alzheimer’s disease. He spent the next six years in agony, pain, and confusion. Unequivocally, he is one of the most famous athletes with dementia.

3. Bill Quackenbush – Canadian Professional Ice Hockey Defenceman 

Bill Quackenbush famous athletes with dementia

Bill Quackenbush (a.k.a Hubert George) was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman. He played in the National Hockey League for major teams like the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. 

Later in his life, he also took up teaching. He spent the post-playing years coaching Ivy League colleges like Princeton University.[2]

Bill had three children with his wife Joan Kalloch. After retiring from coaching (in 1997), he and his wife moved to Orlando and subsequently to New Jersey. This is where his life took a u-turn. Two years after moving to New Jersey, Bill died off of complications from pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Joe Adcock – Major League Baseball Player

Joe Adcock  famous athletes with dementia

Joe Adcock (also popularly known as Billy Joe) was a major league baseball player. Making his debut at the age of 23 for Cincinnati Reds, he played from April 23, 1950, to October 1, 1966. Joe was known for his mammoth physique, breathtaking charms, and right-handed power hitting. 

Adcock was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but he and his family choose not to make it public. At the age of 71, he couldn’t deal with the symptoms and took his last breath at his Coushatta, Los Angeles residence. His daughter made the story public via the ChicagoTribune.[3]

5. Sugar Ray Robinson – American Professional Boxer

Sugar Ray Robinson famous athletes with dementia

Sugar Ray Robinson was an American professional boxer. Before the arrival of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, Sugar was reckoned as the best boxer of all time. Some would rate him even higher than Floyd. In fact, he ranked number one on Ring Magazine’s list of 80 best fighters of the previous 80 years.[4]

At the age of 65, Sugar was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Along with a multitude of other fatal ailments, he had to face the impending symptoms of dementia. At the time, he lived in Los Angeles with his second wife, Millie. 

His wife took the baton of responsibility in her hands and did everything to make Sugar feel comfortable. He died two years after the diagnosis. Although the cause of death was recognized as diabetes and not dementia alone.  

Final Thoughts

Researchers are working doubly-hard to find out the cause and cure for dementia. Some of the brain ailments like Huntington’s disease are hereditary but others like Alzheimer’s disease are still a mystery. Nobody knows what led these high-profile and physically fit individuals to develop such a horrific brain condition.

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