Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Former NFL Lineman Ralph Wenzel Dies From "Complications Of Dementia"

Illustration for article titled Former NFL Lineman Ralph Wenzel Dies From Complications Of Dementia

Ralph Wenzel played guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers over the course of seven NFL seasons from 1966 to 1973. At the age of 52, some twenty years after his career ended, he began experiencing "significant memory lapses and other cognitive problems." It was the opinion of his wife, Eleanor Perfetto (who hold a Ph.D. in public health) that it was directly attributable to his playing time in the NFL.

In a New York Times profile in March 2007, Dr. Perfetto said that in more lucid times Mr. Wenzel had assessed his total number of on-field concussions as "more than I can count." During one game, he was knocked unconscious for 5 or 10 seconds, stumbled to the wrong huddle, took a few plays off and then returned to the game.

His wife has butted heads with the NFL and Roger Goodell in her quest to prove that Wenzel's dementia was related to his time in the NFL but the League has routinely rebuffed these claims. Goodell even barred her from a meeting between the NFL and former players as they discussed, you guessed it, the NFL's role in caring for its aging players. Goodell indicated he was following the wishes of the players assembled, like former New York Giants star Harry Carson, who "felt that the presence of women could impede the discussion."

The NFL has since changed its tune on the head trauma debate and did approximately two months after Dr. Perfetto described her Husband's ordeal to the House Judiciary Committee hearing on head injuries in October 2009.


Boston University will test his brain for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Wenzel was 69.

Photo via

Ralph Wenzel, Whose Dementia Helped Start a Debate, Dies at 69 [NY Times]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter