November 13, 2011 in Sports

Mackey’s widow continues crusade against head injuries

Associated Press photo

Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey died in July after a 10-year battle with dementia.
(Full-size photo)

BALTIMORE – The wife of Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey refers to herself as Mrs. No. 88, a tribute to her late husband and the legacy he left behind.

John Mackey preferred to run through tacklers rather than avoid them as a member of the Baltimore Colts from 1963-71. Back then, there was little understanding about the danger of repeated hits to the head.

Mackey died in July after a 10-year battle with dementia. Sylvia Mackey remained by his side throughout, and she continues to show her support by educating parents, mental health providers and athletes about sports-related head injuries. She will appear Monday in Baltimore as a part of a forum to discuss mental health and disabilities caused by head trauma.

Football-related head injuries have been a topic of concern for Sylvia Mackey since her husband was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. John and Sylvia helped bring about the creation of the “88 plan,” named after Mackey’s number. Funded by the league and the NFL Players Association, it provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care for former players with dementia.

After John Mackey died at the age of 69, Sylvia continued their crusade.

“I think it’s important from the standpoint that my husband wanted to help people, and I feel that I can provide firsthand experience about the ramifications of head injuries in sports,” she said.

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