The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that University of Tennessee women’s basketball coaching legend Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. The 59-year-old coach, who has won more games than any coach — male or female — in NCAA basketball history, reportedly has no plans to retire from her position as the head coach of the Lady Volunteers. She enters her 38th season in 2011-12.
Summitt frightened by changes in memory, behavior
Months characterized by what has been described as “erratic behavior” concerned Pat Summitt and those close to her earlier this year. Lapses of memory and feelings of confusion led the steel-willed coaching legend to ask herself, “What’s wrong with me?” reports the News Sentinel.
After subjecting herself to a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., this May, Summitt discovered that early onset dementia resembling Alzheimer’s disease was to blame. Anger and denial led to acceptance. Always goal-oriented, Summitt is already moving forward with a plan involving medication and additional mental activities to stimulate the cognitive centers of her brain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition caused by the death of brain cells. It is a slow-moving disease that gradually erodes cognitive function. Summitt noted that dementia runs in her family.
‘There’s not going to be any pity party’
In a video statement released on the Lady Vols’ website, Pat Summitt spoke with confidence when she said she would confront her early onset dementia head-on.
“There’s not going to be any pity party, and I’ll make sure of that,” she said.
Some individuals close to Summitt have questioned whether the medication she has been taking for rheumatoid arthritis is connected to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. While the root cause is ultimately unknown, the fact that Summitt now knows her opponent makes things much easier, said Summitt’s son Tyler, a junior walk-on for the Tennessee men’s basketball team.
“She’s always better when she knows what she’s fighting against,’’ said Tyler. “She had recommendations, what to do and what routine to get into and she’s going to prepare just like a game for her health.”
Summitt has replaced feelings of anxiousness with a resolute sense for the battle ahead.
“I feel better just knowing what I’m dealing with,’’ she said. “And as far as I’m concerned it’s not going to keep me from living my life, not going to keep me from coaching.”
The Summitt of excellence
The winningest basketball coach in NCAA history with 1,037 wins and 196 losses, Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols have captured eight NCAA Championships, just two behind the record 10 by former UCLA men’s basketball head coach John Wooden. Summitt has earned 29 combined Southeastern Conference titles in 36 years as Tennessee’s head coach. Summitt holds the record for Final Four appearances with 18 and had success at junior nationals, the World Championships, Pan American Games and Olympic Games.
Pat Summitt makes dementia announcement
Knoxville News Sentinel: http://bit.ly/nkR0d4
Lady Vols Basketball: http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/summitt_pat00.html
Pat Summitt Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Summitt
People Magazine: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20522242,00.html
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