MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Life has become a struggle for several former NFL players as the past-day gladiators are suffering through the deterioration of body and mind.
Earlier this week, former Miami Dolphins linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famers Nick Buoniconti was highlighted in an article by Sports Illustrated.
Buoniconti’s family wants to get the word out regarding the long-term effects of what playing in the NFL can do to a person both mentally and physically.
On Wednesday, another article was released by Sports Illustrated focusing on a former Dolphins great who is dealing with the same issues.
Miami halfback Jim Kiick, who helped run Miami to consecutive Super Bowl wins in 1971 and 1972, is a shell of what he once was.
Now living in a South Florida assisted living facility, Kiick’s is registered for a payout from the NFL’s $1 billion concussion settlement.
According to Kiick’s son Austin, per the article, his father’s diagnosis of dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease could lead to a payout as high as $620,000.
The long and enduring process of dealing with the NFL and the lawsuit has taken its toll on the family.
“It’s been a very disappointing process to go through—to even get some kind of information,” Austin Kiick, 28, told SI of his dealings with the NFL. “You get bounced around to different people, and nobody knows what’s going on or who you can contact, and they say they’ll get back to you and never do. I didn’t expect how harsh it would be.”
One of the big differences between Kiick and Buoniconti is that Kiick never made the kind of money playing football that Buoniconti did.
Kiick couldn’t afford to have in-house care, personal assistance or the kind of access to top-line healthcare that Buoniconti had.
Instead, Kiick lived alone in Davie without anyone to track his potential symptoms, help with medical appointments or monitor his use of prescription medications, such as painkillers.
During his nine year professional career, Kiick missed just one game.
A hard-nosed tailback who often acted as a lead blocker for Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka, Kiick never avoided contact.
“I had many, many discussions with Coach Shula, arguing, ‘I don’t understand why a guy at 215 is blocking for a guy at 240,’ ” said Kiick to SI, who mentioned that his long-term memory remains fairly sound. “He gave me a dirty look and said, ‘Just get back in there.’”
Injury recognizing and response practices have changed significantly in the 40 years since Kiick ran for Miami.
“I got dizzy, got dinged a few times. You’d come to the sidelines and they’d ask, ‘How many fingers have I got up?’ And you’d say four or three or whatever, and they’d say, ‘Close enough,’” Kiick told the magazine. “We were playing because we enjoyed the game. We were too naïve to realize that, in the future years, this could affect us, our life, the brains. We just went back in and got dinged again.”
The Kiick family has noticed things getting worse for Jim over the past decade.
It’s an issue they are hoping to help raise awareness of in order to avoid other families having to deal with the same heartache and hardships.
“It’s been devastating,” Allie Kiick, Jim’s 21-year-old daughter, told SI. “When I do something great—which, back in the day, he’d be just so proud about—I don’t even bother calling after. And when I do call to check up on him, he calls me—I kid you not—probably 30, 40 times after if I don’t pick up the phone. He just keeps calling and calling and calling, to the point where, at night, I actually have to block him from my phone because he’ll call at 3 in the morning. He just doesn’t know any better.”
Allie is coming back from multiple medical issues to resume a professional tennis career. As she has made her comeback, it’s been very difficult to see her father’s health moving in the opposite direction.
“I tell my close friends, ‘I lost my dad at 21 years old,’” she said. “I love him to death, and I’m so proud of him and everything he’s accomplished—and I just wanted him to be really proud of me, too. But he just won’t ever understand, I guess.”