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The Early Lead
Posted at 01:48 PM ET, 02/02/2012

Hall of Famer Gordie Howe is fighting mild dementia


Mr. Hockey (right) is dealing with dementia. (Bruce Bennett - Getty Images)
Dementia is a disease Gordie Howe knows well.

Only three years ago, it killed his wife, Colleen. And now it’s affecting Howe, too.

According to an Associated Press report, Howe’s family has yet to seek a diagnosis, but signs of the disease are starting to emerge. Howe is experiencing short-term memory loss, difficulty speaking and some confusion after the sun sets, a condition called “sundowning.”

But rather than suffer in silence, the man known as Mr. Hockey will continue to make public appearances at fundraisers to support the Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer’s.

“He’s a little bit worse than last year, but pretty close to about the same,” Howe’s son, Marty Howe said. “He just loses a little bit more, grasping for words.”

Howe, 83, played 26 of his 33 years as a pro in the NHL, winning four Stanley Cups, six Art Ross trophies, six Hart trophies and scoring 801 career goals. But in that distinguished career, Howe also took his share of hits to the head, the effects of which often surface years after the impact.

Concussions were not tracked in Howe’s era, and he only began showing signs of dementia within the last few years. Howe’s family has been hesitant to draw the connection between Howe’s punishing fights and his current condition.

“I don’t think anybody can really answer that question,” Marty Howe said. “He went for so long without any symptoms whatsoever. You don’t have to be an athlete or in contact sports to get dementia.”

Howe’s son Murray, a radiologist, said his father’s symptoms do not match those of Alzheimer’s or Pick’s disease — a rare form of dementia that killed Colleen Howe at the age of 76 in 2009.

By  |  01:48 PM ET, 02/02/2012

 
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