Ex-Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp has Alzheimer’s

If there’s one thing yesterday’s Super Bowl has taught us it’s that nothing is going to stop people from playing football, and nothing is going to stop the NFL. It’s simply too ingrained in the American culture now.

So today’s news that Joe Kapp, the former Vikings quarterback, has Alzheimer’s carries this quote that people will most likely ignore.

“Don’t let your son be a football player,” Joe said.

Even Joe’s family isn’t paying attention, the San Jose Mercury News reports. His grandson is playing football.

Although physicians can’t say for sure, it’s obvious to oldest son J.J. Kapp that the bestial way his father played football has contributed to the mental demise.

J.J. understands that concussion-like symptoms were not always diagnosed in his father’s era. But the Santa Clara County assistant public defender has heard enough anecdotal evidence to be swayed, such as when his dad got hit so hard in Canada his left side went numb and his left eye closed shut.

“And the guys wouldn’t let him go off the field,” J.J. said. “The ethic of football is still the same. You play through it. That needs to change.”

Now all those powerful blows over more than two decades of tackle football have led Joe to dedicate one chapter of a memoir he is writing to concussions.

He didn’t flinch when hearing about the New York Times report that Stabler and Morrall suffered from the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

“It’s past the time of concern,” said Kapp, who is part of a neurological study at UCSF. “Every single day I live being forgetful. I’ve got calendars on both of my shoes.”

Kapp plans to donate his brain to neurologists for research.

His grandson plays for Cal. Kapp’s son, J.J. is honest about why.

“We’re afflicted with the football disease,” he said. “I’m hoping if Frank does end up playing, it’s just college and hopefully it is not so much damage.

  • “… hopefully it is not so much damage,” he said before adding “I mean, a little brain damage never hurt anyone, right?”

    • BJ

      I’m slightly confused as to who the quote, “hopefully it is not so much damage” is attributed to, but seems like it is the “Santa Clara County assistant public defender”.


  • Gary F

    If I ever get it, the first thing I want to forget is the Vikings Super Bowl losses.

    But he, and I, also played in an era where helmets sucked, and they shoved you back out there to play.

    I was knocked out cold in 10th grade on a Thursday, and back at full practice on Tuesday. I also knew I had a few more in my days including a year of Jr college football and wasn’t going to tell anyone because I didn’t want to lose my starting position.

    My son played football at the high school level, the attention put on head injuries is much more stringent, and the helmets are much better than in Joe or my days.

    Life is dangerous, would you give up riding a bike too?

    • >>Life is dangerous, would you give up riding a bike too?<<

      I guess it depends on how often you smack your head while riding said bicycle.

      /Wear a helmet.

      • Gary F

        I don’t ride a bike on the streets anymore, too dangerous. Just on pathways like Mississippi Blvd or Minnehaha etc.

        • Bike paths can be way more dangerous, and don’t even TRY to ride the Greenway after dark and expect to live.

    • Rob

      Serious? You’re equating the legalized mayhem of football to riding a bike?

      • Gary F

        yes. Youth HS, and college football is watched very closely, and yes, people still get hurt, but I think the benefits still out weight the risks. Riding a bike has risks too, but also has benefits.

        And for the pro’s, they get paid a very big sum to get mashed potatoes for brains. Unlike Joe Capp and the guys from his generation, who had to work an off season job to makes ends meet.

        • rosswilliams

          ” they get paid a very big sum to get mashed potatoes for brains. ”

          Some players do, most don’t. The owners and coaches, on the other hand, make even larger sums with no such risk. If you made the schools, coaches and owners strictly liable for any dementia among their former players, the business would be a lot less profitable. In fact, it wouldn’t exist.

          • Gary F

            And they know the risks and rewards before they sign the contract. Back in Joe Kapp’s day, they didn’t know the all the risks, we do now.

          • rosswilliams

            No, they don’t know the risks and neither do you.

  • ec99

    Don’t know how much play this got in the MN press, but former Viking guard Larry Bowie died of Alzheimers a few years ago.

  • rosswilliams

    The real dementia is allowing this sport to continue as currently played. This isn’t “life”, its a business. Its value comes from attracting an audience for advertisers. There are plenty of other ways to do that.

  • Brian Simon

    Funny, after seeing the comment that football’s not going anywhere, I stumbled across this:


    • Right. My comment was directed at stories like that. It’s not going anywhere. America wants its gladiators. There’s always someone willing to be the gladiator.

  • lindblomeagles

    Back in the 1980s, when I attended junior and senior high school, the NFL’s main concern were knee injuries. I’ll never forget when NBC or ABC aired a afternoon special about knee injuries in the NFL. These linemen were filmed and photographed with legs missing knee caps, flesh upon flesh plugging up where knees used to be. I decided I wouldn’t play. When my son’s time came in the early 2000s, I convinced him not to play by reminding him how much he didn’t like wrestling (the real wrestling–not the WWE). After hearing so much talk of concussions, like the league used to talk about knees 30 years ago, I’m so glad neither of us played. I love watching it. But, even I am starting to take a long look at that. I’d like to think Arena Football is safer, with its faster tempo and smaller men on the field. But, they use boards around the field as a sideline, similar to hockey.

  • tboom

    Boxing was at one time ingrained in American culture. I’m not sure whether violence or gambling did in boxing, but I suspect football will also run its course. Actually I think we’ll see the demise of football sooner than anyone might suspect as there seems to be evidence some elite high school athletes are already opting out.