NFL players get help with dementia

Dave Kocourek shows his Oakland Radiers football jersey. Kocourek has two AFL Championship rings that he earned during his heydays with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE, Staff

Dave Kocourek shows his Oakland Radiers football jersey. Kocourek has two AFL Championship rings that he earned during his heydays with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

Dave Kocourek shows his AFL championship ring he earned while with the Oakland Raiders.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE, Staff

Dave Kocourek shows his AFL championship ring he earned while with the Oakland Raiders.

I visited with my friend Dave Kocourek and wife Mary Lee last week to talk about the glory days of playing professional football.

His career spanned 10 years, including one in Canadian football and nine in the American and National Football leagues.

Dave chimed in when he could, but often his memory failed him. Dave gets frustrated at times because of his lack of memory. He is not alone.

Since 2007 former players have been helped by the National Football League Players’ Association Plan 88. The plan is named after John Mackey, a Hall of Fame tight end who was diagnosed with dementia.

Mackey wore No. 88 while a college star at Syracuse University and with the NFL’s Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers.

Miki Yaras-Davis, director of NFLPA benefits, said more than 100 retired players have qualified for assistance. She said that more than $4 million in payments have been made.

The plan came about because Mackey’s wife Sylvia wrote to a long-time friend, the late Gene Upshaw, then executive director of the NFLPA.

Plan 88 pays the cost of medical and custodial care for eligible players. The plan pays up to $88,000 a year for in-patient care and $50,000 for outpatient care.

“Gene Upshaw made a very earnest effort to get the plan,” Yaras-Davis said. “It was something that the players and the NFL owners wanted to put in place. I think it is the only dementia-related plan in the country, possibly in the world.”

Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, lauded the plan, saying it was something the owners wanted to enact.

“I am glad we are able to help the players who are suffering,” he said. “I have no more tears after the loss of Gene Upshaw. I pray for the players who are suffering.”

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