Highlighted by the Death of NFL Player Jim Kiick
On Father’s Day eve, former Miami Dolphin Jim Kiick passed away at 73. Obituaries all over the sports and national news noted that he died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. That is far from the whole truth.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a disease caused by repeated head injuries. It is neurodegenerative and the effects from it can show up years after the initial injuries. They include behavioral problems, confusion with thinking, and changes of mood. Jim Kiick was suffering from dementia from CTE.
In 2017, Sports Illustrated writer S.L. Price, did a story on Jim Kiick, and other NFL players who had sued the league in a $1 billion concussion settlement. This money helped to support these players (Kiick needed to go into an assisted living facility in 2016), but it certainly didn’t give back the brain capacity they lost forever.
Jim Kiick was instrumental in helping the Miami Dolphins win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973, the latter of which was an undefeated season. He ended his career with a 3,644 yard rushing record and 28 touchdowns, making him one of the top players in the franchise’s history. During that time, he had multiple head injuries.
A 2015 study found CTE in the autopsies of 87 out of 91 former NFL players. Football is the sport that gets the attention when it comes to CTE, but it’s something that is happening in many other sports.
My person connection to all this is actually not football, but instead tennis.
I’ve known Allie Kiick since my days of covering her as a junior and then professional tennis player on the women’s tour. She’s been through many of her own health struggles, including a battle with melanoma, and made a comeback to the court.
The one thing Allie Kiick couldn’t overcome was losing the man she knew for 21 years as a loving father. Although he just died, he had been unable to have a meaningful conversation with her for years.