NFL: There are No Other Players with Dementia

Jan 24, 2011

As is often the case, it started with this short note we received from Elizabeth Pierce last week:

.

My father was a former NFL player who passed away after 20 years of dementia.

.

The NFL denied disability benefits.
.

Do you know if anyone has been successful in getting retroactive benefits under the Mackey 88 Plan or having them reassess a disability claim since all the new findings?
.
Thanks
Elizabeth Pierce

.

So I wrote her back and asked if we could tell his story on the blog so others could see his story. This is the story of Dale Meinert’s last 20+ years before he passed away in 2005:

.

My Dad was Dale Meinert. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 60’s. He was a middle linebacker.
.
When he was 48 (1983), he began to have symptoms of dementia and a short time later, lost employment as a teacher and coach. We lived in a small rural town and our family physician was of no help. We had Dad declared incompetent by a judge in order to get him to a major hospital for medical care.
.
He was in the psychiatric ward for a month and they ran batteries of tests.  The Doctor said that his condition was football -related and was most likely Picks Disease which is deterioration of the frontal lobe. We had to put him in a state mental hospital until we could find a long-term care facility that could take care of him.
.
My Mom called the NFL to apply for disability and asked if there were others with the same kinds of illness. The NFL said  No, there weren’t any other players with early dementia. And they wouldn’t recognize early dementia as a football related injury. We worked hard to find nursing homes with locked-in Alzheimer wards.
.
My Dad was in a nursing home 18 years until he died in 2005.
.
The direct cost to our family was about $50,000 a year (almost $1 million!).
.
My dad was a good man who served his community.  His player’s salary from the NFL in the 60’s was inadequate compared to the suffering and costs of dementia.
.
I am thankful for all those who have been bringing the cause of early onset dementia in football players to the forefront: Dr. Bennet Omalu, Dr. Julian Bailes, Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute, along with all those players and their families who have stepped forward to tell their personal stories. I can only hope there will be more NFL support for these families going forward.
.
My family would be glad to validate and support those families who are currently dealing with husbands and fathers with football-related dementia.
.
Elizabeth Meinert Pierce

.

Dale Meinert
Chicago Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals
1958 – 1967
3 Time Pro Bowler
.
.

.
.

.
.

.
.

.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The New Yorker just happens to have a new article from Ben McGrath in their Jan. 31, 2011 edition, titled Does Football Have a Future? Click HERE to read the online edition.
.

15 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Lou Piccone
    January 24th, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Lou Piccone
    Dear Elizabeth,

    I certainly feel your pain. After 10 years in the NFL as a Special Team (Bomb Squad Leader) and Wide Receiver (over the middle-3rd down type) and 17-Plus concussions, my concerns run deep and my memory is suspect. The 88 Plan is in effect for players with dementia; however, what about early stages – the preliminary stages and troubles associated with the defining time spent. Too many players have already gone years without acknowledgment and compensation for injuries caused by and manifested through measurable trauma (breaks and tears of bone and tissue) resulting in multiple surgeries AND STILL BEEN DENIED RELIEF. This type of mental problem due to trauma to the head is now being well-documented. The PAST OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, in the mantra of the Pre-1993 CBA’ers Executive Director Gene Upshaw, rings as hollow as the voice of the New NFLPA Executive Director De Smith and his ONE LOCKER ROOM speech. He gets compensated very nicely for his role with the current players. Gene Upshaw got compensated $16 million dollars in his death! That was over 50% of the Class Action settlement for over 2000 players and held up the payment to the Retired Players in that Class Action Suit of 2010.

    We’re up against an old rival, OURSELVES, they just make a lot more money and have the Face of a new leader. If we can’t get the Active Players to see the Big Picture, then the Negotiating Tactic of ….Lie, Deny and Hope They Die will work because if the New CBA is Negotiated and the Pre-93 CBA Retired Players Concerns and Solutions are not included; this CBA could be extended another 18 years like the last one and we’ll all be dead…..How much do you guy’s need? Better question, how much does your attorney/agent need to make with all of the rest of the hands in the PIE. It seems that there is very little emphasis placed on the 50 years of struggle to get something decent for the effort and danger.

    It seems as though the Mantra should be: PRESENT and FUTURE ONLY …SURE AIN’T ENOUGH ROOM IN THIS LOCKER ROOM! Elizabeth, you must have had a rough time of it watching your father, Dale, deteriorate over the years. Your story reminds us of our human frailty and weakness because obviously we’re not invincible as we all thought when we were young!

    Sharing your family story will help our retired player group understand the effects of Pro Football on Retired Players and how widespread the destruction of body, mind and spirit, as well as the emotional and financial duress realized by the family and all involved with the Retired Player later.

    The Active Player becomes RETIRED IN A SECOND!!!

    Elizabeth, you are in our Blanket of Prayers.

    Lou Piccone
    NY JETS 74-76
    BUFFALO BILLS 77-83

  2. Ange Coniglio
    January 24th, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Ange Coniglio

    If the NFL was General Motors or Enron, the news media would tear it apart over stories like this.

    Where are the ‘Journalists’ when it comes to unbiased reporting on the BUSINESS of professional sports?

    Ange Coniglio
    Lifelong Fan
    Remember the AFL

  3. Jim "Crash" Jensen
    January 24th, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Jim Crash Jensen

    This is so-oo sad!

    Jim “Crash” Jensen
    Miami Dolphins
    1981 – 1992

  4. Ron Pritchard
    January 25th, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    Ron Pritchard

    When good men stand by watching bad men do bad things, and the good men do nothing, then the good men deserve what they get. We ex-players need to stand up and be heard and not jump for the crumbs off the masters’ table. Be strong, unite now!

    Ron Pritchard
    Houston Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals
    1969 – 1977

  5. John Hogan
    January 25th, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    John Hogan

    Elizabeth,

    It would appear that your Dad would have been eligible for the 88 Plan. I suggest that you call the NFL Benefits office at 1-800-635-4625 to inquire. It is a reimbursement plan, and it would appear that you can document the expenses – so hopefully there might be something there.

    Regarding disability in the 1980’s – there was a lot of misinformation out there. Dave Pear was a victim of it himself. Regardless, 48 is too darn young to be suffering from dementia or totally disabled from playing football.

    John V. Hogan
    Disability Attorney & Advocate

  6. Dr. David Weisman
    January 25th, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Dr. David Weisman

    What a shame. This was likely CTE (although without tissue, hard to support), very slow progression with early onset. If so, it was directly related to football.

    David Weisman, MD
    Abington Neurological Associates, Ltd.

  7. Dave Pear
    January 25th, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Dave Pear

    Thank you, John Hogan!

    Do you think the Benefits office will be helpful? It sure would be nice for Elizabeth’s family to receive restitution for the fortune her family paid for her father’s medical care due to football injuries.

    But, the NFL spokesman Gregg Aiello only recently said that all is not well in the land of “Oz.” The problem is the NFL is real and the land of “Oz” is a fairytale and the wizard (in this case, Roger Goodell) by his actions has proven to be a counterfeit Commissioner.

    ROGER GOODELL and DE SMITH each need courage along with a heart to make restitution for the NFL and their dirty deeds against retired players. We already know they each still have a brain (misguided by a fat paycheck) because they didn’t have to play football.

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  8. CrossFitFootball.com – Daily WOD
    January 25th, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    [...] NFL: There are no other players with dementia – Dave Pear [...]

  9. Ray Bracken
    January 26th, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    UAW

    To The Men Who Risk Injury Everyday!

    I’m UAW member who has had over 20 operations and most would not be covered if not for HEATH INSURANCE that we won. My point being is every player today needs a percentage of his hard fought earnings put into a medical policy to cover him and his family for as long as he lives.

    Nobody can’t tell me that both sides can live with a medical policy just like we do in the auto business. And you have some players throwing money away like water, so why not take a small percentage and put it into a medical insurance policy no matter what.

    Also putting more players on each team would give more players a carrier such as (60). I’m just saying: more money, more help, moneywise.

    Ray Bracken

  10. RobertinSeattle
    January 26th, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    RobertinSeattle

    Ray –

    Thanks for reading the blog and posting a comment. Hopefully, more people will jump in from the the rank-and-file within the UAW and the AFL/CIO as the NFLPA keeps trying to perpetuate the myth that they actually represent best interests of the retired players.

    Please understand that some of the things you bring up and point out are issues that the retired players would all truly like to have access to. While the NFL and the Union (the NFLPA) continue trying to convince an unknowing public that they have pension and disability programs in place, it’s a fact that fewer than 10% (probably closer to less than 5%) are actually approved to receive them. The deck is stacked against most of them from the day they step off the field until the day they die.

    Imagine one of your own Union brothers applying for his/her medical benefits only to be told that he was disqualified because
    1) he missed an arbitrary 15-year window;
    2) he was still able to do sedentary work based on an unqualified doctor’s “opinion”;
    3) he only qualifies for a lower benefit – or more often NO benefits – because he was told to take an early pension since they had fraudulent “actuarial numbers” that showed he would be dead before he hit 52;
    4) etc.

    Pick one or have the lawyers simply make up another new rule to disqualify them. This is in fact how the current system is rigged – er, written by the Groom Law Group.

    The other fact is that the majority of the players – especially the older guys – are always paid disproportionately lower salaries than the few stars with megamillion-dollar contracts that most people hear about. In actual fact, most of the grunt players today get paid LESS than their counterparts in other Leagues like baseball or basketball. A LOT less. Baseball players have much longer careers and much better benefits that they actually receive as promised! On the other hand, football players’ careers are typically less than 3 years with a loose promise of some benefits when they retire.

    Can you imagine a UAW (or AFL/CIO) worker being asked to apprentice on an assembly line for 3 – 6 years with absolutely no pay while getting your body and your brain beaten up – just for a long shot at getting that decent-paying Union job with benefits? That’s exactly what football players go through when playing high school and college football for 6+ years with the remotest possibility of making it into the NFL. And even then your job is only good for a few years before the job finally takes its toll on your body. And the people who are supposed to be your Union tell you that you’ll have benefits if you get hurt or when you retire.

    Ray, the few years I’ve spent working with Dave Pear and so many of the other retired players have been real eye-openers. Most of what I’ve seen are things that I would never have believed if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, another player steps up with a personal story worse than the last.

    So again, on behalf of ALL the retired players, we’d like to ask you to reach out to as many of your UAW brothers as possible to enlighten them as to what really goes on in this phony Union they call the NFLPA. Don’t let them snow you!

  11. Tony Davis
    January 26th, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Tony Davis

    I want to congratulate the NFL Retired Player community. Many of us have been advocating for NFL Retired Players for over a decade. The amount of participation, the increased exchange of ideas and with the advent of the “Social Networks,” we are able to spread our message to those who are making decisions that will effect our lives.

    Men, this is the most important Collective Bargaining Agreement that we will see in our lifetime. If it is Pension Increases you seek you need to start calling every NFL Retired Player you know and get on board. What I am about to say is very important. The emphasis for the changes now being talked about originated from our lobbying efforts with Congressmen and Women. Roger Goodell and De Smith never want to have to go in front of a Congressional Committee again. Both sides say the right things with regards to taking care of their Retired Players body. This has been effective in keeping us out of the Congressional support arena that they want nothing to do with. Remember, Antitrust Laws… this is what keeps the NFL wealthy. We’re coming down the stretch – we need to put our pedal to the medal. Not only email Roger Goodell and De Smith but make sure they both know you are calling your Congressmen and Women to make sure they know that the Retired Players body still needs the oversight of our Congressional bodies. As Mike Ditka said: “Get in the Game, Stay in the game!”

    Tony Davis
    NFL Alumni
    Cincinnati Bengals & Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    1976 – 1982

  12. Joe Tabor
    January 26th, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Joe Tabor

    Dave,

    Like the hostage situation during the Carter Administration, you should start to compile a list of players who have faced similar circumstances endured by Mr. Meinert. How many have gone before him? How many will go after him? There are other questions to ask but not in this space, not in this time.

    Joe Tabor
    University of Washington Huskies 1972 – 1973
    University of Washington Huskies

  13. George Visger
    January 28th, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    George Visger

    Elizabeth,

    My heart goes out to you and your family for being forced to watch your father deteriorate due to an industry-caused disease. I can relate probably better than most, as I have survived 9 NFL caused emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, and I too am facing your father’s fate. Up until last month, my Doctors had me on Lamictil for gran mal seizures and Arricept, Namenda and Risederval for dementia (I am 52). The side effects from the meds were worse than the ailment and I quit all but the seizure meds. Suddenly, I’m almost back to my somewhat normal self!

    No matter what the NFL tells you, be strong in pursuing the 88 Plan funds. That’s what they are there for.

    We need more brave folks like yourself to step forward and tell their stories of their loved ones suffering due to a short employment in the NFL. If we had only worked for K-Mart we would be covered for our industry-caused injuries and early deaths from the first day we went to work.

    God Bless you.

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers 1080 & 1981
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  14. Joan Johnson
    February 5th, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Elizabeth, your story is one that needs to be heard. I hope one of the attorneys can help your family recover some of the costs but where was the NFL when your family needed them? My husband is one of the hundreds of former players who await a decision on disability. It’s hard not to be cynical but we must pursue benefits to open the doors for others… today’s players have no idea how they will NOT be taken care of!!!

    Joan Johnson

  15. Richard Norris, MD
    February 22nd, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Richard Norris MD

    Impact of Playing American Professional Football on Long-Term Brain Function

    Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

    Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.

    This article was just published and contains all the necessary reasearch info to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – the epidemic of early onset dementia in NFL players.

    A copy of the article can be found on Dr Amen’s website: http://www.amenclinics.com

    Richard Norris, MD