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Former NFL stars diagnosed with severe illnesses


Two former NFL all-stars, Gale Sayers and Dwight Clark, have reportedly been diagnosed with neurological conditions and at least one family is wondering if football contributed to their loved one’s mental state. Former Chicago Bears running back Sayers was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.

Sayers, who 40 years ago became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had been living in a care facility the last few months, his wife, Ardie Sayers, told the newspaper. Ardie Sayers said she recently moved her husband back home.

She told the Star she believes the dementia began as far back as 2009, but she said Gale remains fine physically. The newspaper said members of the Sayers family believe there is a connection between football and his dementia.

“Other people start making up stories, and people are asking about him more and more,” she said. “People must know.”

Sayers close friendship with Bears teammate Brian Piccolo became the subject of a Hollywood movie titled, “Brian’s Song” which chronicled Piccolo’s battle with cancer. Piccolo died of cancer in 1970.

Sayers played seven seasons in the NFL with the Bears, though the injuries that eventually led to his early retirement limited him to just five productive seasons. He led the league in rushing twice and was a five-time first-team all-pro (1965-1969). He played just two games in 1971 before retiring during the 1972 preseason. Clark, a former San Francisco 49ers receiver, said Sunday on his blog that he has ALS.

Clark wrote that he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in late 2015 after visits to six neurologists and three ALS specialists. The 60-year old noticed a weakness in his left hand in September 2015.

Clark, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, played nine seasons with the 49ers, winning two Super Bowls. (AFP)

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