Although he was a kicker, Dempsey says, "I would hit anybody," The New York Times reported Monday
During his 10-year NFL career coaches often called on the 6-foot-2, 255-pound player to knock down opposing players who were singled out for him, Dempsey says.
All that violent contact led to three diagnosed concussions, and probably more, and, now, a diagnosis of dementia, The New York Times reported Monday.
Dempsey and his wife Carlene traveled to a gathering of retired NFL players in Las Vegas in 2010. There they heard Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain disorder specialist who has done extensive studies on football players, speak about former players with brain trouble.
Carlene recognized some of the symptoms Amen talked about as problems her husband was having and recommended Dempsey sign up for Amen's study.
Amen found three visible holes in the front of Dempsey's brain.
It is a condition that cannot be fixed, said Dr. Gregory Stewart, director of the Neurological Care Program at Tulane's Institute of Sports Medicine where Dempsey, now 66, goes twice a week for treatment with the goal of slowing down in the progression of symptoms.
Dempsey is jovial and optimistic despite his condition. But he's visited former teammates who also have brain disorders. Some of them died in nursing homes, and he fears ending up in one as well.
"That's not going to happen," his wife said. "We're not going to let that happen."