by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Pat Summitt, championship-winning coach of the University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Team, was recently diagnosed with early onset dementia (Alzheimer’s disease), as reported by Sports Illustrated on August 23. She is 59-years-old and will continue to coach:
“Summitt said that she didn’t consider retirement. She told the News Sentinel that she was encouraged after speaking with Dr. Ronald Petersen, the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. ‘He’s the one who told me you can coach as long as you want to coach and no one else had said anything like that to me,’ Summitt told the newspaper. ‘I haven’t talked to him [lately] and I even thought about calling him sometime soon and telling him where I am with this. He was so positive [saying] ‘You can work through this.’
“The paper reported that Summitt has formulated a plan that involves mental activities, such as reading and doing puzzles at night before going to sleep. Summitt told the News Sentinel that her maternal grandmother had suffered from severe dementia.”
We wish Pat Summitt well, and hope that others will be inspired by her courage.