Pro Football Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, who played offensive line in the NFL from 1956 to 1971, is now suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And he wonders how much playing football — and playing at a time when the game had a very different attitude toward injuries — contributes to his current health problems.
Gregg told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that in playing 188 consecutive games he’s sure he played through concussions, although he has no idea how many. And he says that in those days, no one thought of getting knocked unconscious as tantamount to suffering a serious brain injury.
“You didn’t think anything about it,” Gregg said. “You heard about people getting knocked out all the time. If you watch any cowboy movie, how many times has Roy Rogers knocked somebody out? You didn’t think anything of it. That was just part of the game of football. You might get knocked out.”
In addition to serious concussions, Gregg wonders how much the thousands of sub-concussive hits he took might have contributed to his developing Parkinson’s. Gregg noted that the head slap was legal when he played, and defensive linemen would routinely smack him upside the head.
“I heard bells ringing,” Gregg said of head slaps. “Deacon Jones was the fastest, the quickest. He would double his slap. Pow, pow! He came at you with the right, then the left.”
Gregg was labeled “the greatest player I’ve ever coached” by Vince Lombardi, and that was in large part because Gregg savored tough, physical play. Now Gregg wonders if that tough, physical play has taken its toll on his brain.