GREEN BAY - Former Packers player, coach and Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg is taking his battle with Parkinson's disease public after being diagnosed in 2011.
Vince Lombardi called Gregg the "Best player he ever coached." Now it's Gregg who hopes he can coach others about the signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
"I started having tremors in my left hand. Mostly, it happened in the mornings when I'd first wake up," explained Gregg in a satellite interview with FOX 11 Monday.
At his wife Barbara's request, Gregg went to the doctor. That was two years ago. But the symptoms of Parkinson's – like vivid dreams and fatigue – didn't start then.
Gregg – an offensive tackle who made his mark on the gridiron, played in 188 straight games for the Packers and won two Super Bowls – is now working on staving off the disease that is robbing him of his mobility, speech and memory.
Gregg and his doctor, Rajeev Kumar, are paid spokespeople for Parkinson's More than Motion campaign. The organization was launched by UCB, a global pharmaceutical company which arranged the satellite interview.
As the NFL faces a lawsuit filed by thousands of former players contending the league hid known connections between concussions and brain injuries, Gregg says he's pleased with the efforts being made to address head injuries in the game today.
"I think they're more aware of the head injury and the long-term repercussions from it. And I think they're started making moves in the right direction," said Gregg.
Gregg can't say the head injuries he suffered during his 15 seasons of play are the cause of his disease.
"Doctor thinks it could have something to do with it, certainly," said Gregg.
"You talk to his wife, Barbara, for example; he tells us that for many years, he's been having vivid dreams with screaming, shouting and fighting movements. That's what we call REM sleep behavior disorder," said Dr. Kumar.
Kumar says the cause of the disease isn't known, but it has a genetic component and environmental risk factors – like head injuries – can play a part.
That's why Kumar and Gregg say people must recognize early warning signs, like fatigue, depression, mood swings or memory problems, and get help.
"It's frustrating at times, but on the other hand, it's here, it's a reality."
While Parkinson's can affect one's mobility, Gregg says it's not affecting him. Especially as he plans on taking a trip to Canton, Ohio for his friend and former Packers teammate Dave Robinson's induction into the Pro Hall of Fame.
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