In 1996, Tim Green made the comment that you cannot go through an NFL season without doing serious damage to your body.
In a recent 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, the former Atlanta Falcons NFL star revealed that in 2016, when he was 52 years old, a neurologist told him to “get your affairs in order”.
Tim had always suspected that his ALS was caused by the continuous head injuries he received during the games and at practice sessions.
60 Minutes had its first interview with Tim in 1996. At that time Tim acknowledged the violence and risks associated with football. He said that a player cannot get through a football season without serious injuries. He admitted that he had a lot of “battle scars”. Tim also indicated that he always faced the fact that his injuries may cut years off his life.
Although scientists caution that it may be premature to link ALS to football, the legal settlement received by the NFL includes a reference to ALS.
A list of 25 football players diagnosed with ALS and an ever-increasing number of other neurodegenerative diseases is available here.
Practice Was Tougher Than the Games
Tim’s wife, Illyssa remembers him having to cover his head with vaseline just to get his helmet on because his head was so swollen.
Tim feels that had he started his career later in life he might have been spared. However, at the time he was on the field no one seemed aware, nor were they concerned, about brain damage. Now NFL rules have changed concerning helmet to helmet contact during practice. It is now penalized in games.
He describes pre-season practice as being especially brutal. In fact, he said that practices were much worse than the actual games— no one held back.
A Long and Impressive History of Accomplishments
Tim graduated magna cum laude at Syracuse University where he was also an All-American defensive lineman.
He spent eight years as linebacker and defensive end with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and still managed to work in a law degree. Tim was such an avid reader that he squeezed in portions of War and Peace in the locker room before each game.
For over ten years Tim was a broadcaster for Fox Sports. During that time he began his current career as a writer with six bestsellers to his credit including The Dark Side of the Game. The book, published in 1996, is a combination of his football memoir and an inside look at the horror and abuses of professional football.
By 2016 Tim was enjoying retirement. He was busy writing, exercising, and spending time with his wife and five children in their home in Skaneateles, New York.
A Slow Progression
It was the summer of 2016 when Tim first started noticing that he was having a little difficulty grasping small objects. But when his symptoms stopped being annoying and became more obvious, Tim agreed to see a surgeon about his hands.
It was at that appointment Tim was told he most likely had ALS. He was immediately referred to a neurologist in New York where the diagnosis was confirmed.
Tim’s immediate reaction to this death sentence was to push it aside and spend valuable time with his wife and children. He rejected doctors and treatment. He would not discuss his disease nor did he want any sympathy. He explained that he did not want to think about it. He just wanted to live his life to the best of his ability.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare disease often called Lou Gehrig’s disease. The name originated eighty years ago in honor of a famous New York Yankee baseball player. Noted physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking recently died of ALS.
ALS kills the nerves that control muscles, robbing patients of the ability to walk, speak and breathe. Information about ALS is available here.
It’s All About Sports
Although Tim’s voice was weak and he lost much of his ability to walk, he still managed his usual fall season on the football field encouraging his young Skaneateles football players. Most of the players were not aware of the severity of Tim’s illness, but that was a year and a half ago.
Tim follows the new guidelines with his young players. He puts limits on contact when they are in practice sessions. His son Ty is the star quarterback on the team. He is adamant that he does not want his son playing defense.
Tim was able to make a few public appearances without divulging his illness. In March 2017 he appeared on “CBS This Morning” to promote a book he co-authored on baseball for junior high school students.
Tim Finally Capitulated
When Tim’s condition began a more rapid decline, his family convinced him to see a neurologist. He was seen by Dr. Merit Cudkowicz of the Healey Center for ALS, Boston, Massachusetts.
Steve Kroft interviewed Dr. Cudkowicz who indicated that Tim has a slower form of ALS. However, Dr. Cudkowicz explained that it is still a fatal disease as there is no cure.
Blame it on the Game
Steve Kroft asked Tim whether he thinks football was the cause of his illness. Tim responded that he thought football may be entirely to blame.
He said that he could not possibly count the concussions he has had. He remembers he stopped counting at number ten. Tim said he “used his head” on every play and it was like continuously hitting his head against a brick wall.
Tim said he actually thinks the guys would be willing to deduct ten to twenty years from their lives just to go out on Sundays and play football. He really believes that the players do not think about the future.
Tim said he does not have any regrets. He told Steve Kroft that the players were all doing what they had always dreamed of doing. He said to imagine 60,000 fans creating such energy that it fills the entire stadium. Tim said that it is magical and just as wonderful as he thought it would be.
Writing is his Escape
Tim has authored thirty-eight books. Four books were written after his diagnosis. He was able to write the last 300-page book on his smartphone. Since then, however, he has relied on a sensor embedded in his glasses.
As he moves the sensor it targets and locks letters on his keyboard. Tim clicks on the letters and in this painstaking way words are formed. He is using this technique for his thirty-ninth book.
Tim’s ALS Awareness Campaign
Scientists are attacking ALS from every angle but with great difficulty, because ALS research is still underfunded. For that reason, Tim’s family has created a campaign on social media.
The campaign is called Tackle ALS and its goal is to provide funds for research. Learn more about the campaign here.
Any and all contributions would be greatly appreciated.