Because you need to log in to read the Times and some may be reluctant to do so, I am going to paste the article itself right here.

Powerful stuff.


Part 1:

New York Times (NY)
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

March 14, 2007


Section: A



Wives United by Husbands' Post-N.F.L. Trauma

ALAN SCHWARZ

ANNAPOLIS, Md., March 9 The night that Sylvia Mackey and Eleanor Perfetto first met, back in October at a Baltimore Ravens reception for former National Football League players and their families, their connection was immediate. As she sat on a couch with her husband, Mrs. Mackey watched Dr. Perfetto cradle the hand of her husband as he blankly shuffled across the floor toward the Mackeys.

''Your husband has dementia,'' Mrs. Mackey said.

''Yours does, too,'' Dr. Perfetto replied.

''We both just knew,'' Dr. Perfetto recalled on Friday, when the two visited the assisted-living facility where Dr. Perfetto's husband, Ralph Wenzel, resides. Mrs. Mackey quickly added, ''You can see it in the wives' faces just like the husbands'.''

On that evening last October, Mrs. Mackey added another N.F.L. wife to her growing network of women who seek her guidance and support as their husbands deteriorate mentally. Her husband, John, was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Baltimore Colts in the late 1960s and early '70s, and is probably the most notable victim of dementia among former football players. Mrs. Mackey said that she regularly communicates with about 10 women like Dr. Perfetto as they learn to handle their husbands' dementia, which often begins as early as their 50s.

''I know about 20 in all,'' Mrs. Mackey said. ''And if I know 20, there are probably 60 or 80 out there.''

Last May, Mrs. Mackey wrote a three-page letter to Paul Tagliabue, the N.F.L. commissioner at the time, detailing John Mackey's decline, the financial ruin it would soon cause her, and how the Mackeys were not the only couple facing such a crisis at a time when the league's coffers are bursting. She wrote that dementia ''is a slow, deteriorating, ugly, caregiver-killing, degenerative, brain-destroying tragic horror,'' and appealed to Mr. Tagliabue to help.

The result was the formation of the 88 Plan, a joint effort between the league and the N.F.L. Players Association named after John Mackey's jersey number. Under the plan, families of former players who have various forms of dementia can receive money for their care and treatment -- up to $88,000 a year if the player must live in an outside facility, and up to $50,000 a year if the player is cared for at home.

The first applications were mailed in late February to families of 22 former players who are already known to have dementia, including Mr. Mackey, 65, and Mr. Wenzel, 64. No family has received any money yet. The N.F.L. spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would be aggressive in informing other families about the plan.

Although both the league and the players union are quick to deny any connection between someone's having played football and later cognitive failure -- in an e-mail message, Mr. Aiello described dementia as a condition ''that affects many elderly people'' -- the 88 Plan has been created at a time of heightened scrutiny of the effects of brain injuries among football players.

In January, a neuropathologist who examined the brain of Andre Waters, the former Philadelphia Eagles player who committed suicide last fall at 44, said that repeated concussions had led to Mr. Waters's brain tissue resembling that of an 80-year-old with Alzheimer's disease. And last month, the doctors of the former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, 34, said he was exhibiting the depression and memory lapses associated with oncoming Alzheimer's.