After several months of what the University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach described as “erratic behavior,” Pat Summitt has confirmed she has been diagnosed with early signs of dementia. The coach has recorded more than 1,000 victories at Tennessee and doesn’t plan on stopping coaching any time soon. She will continue to coach until she no longer can.
Pat’s particular form of dementia is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but dementia can be a result of many types of illnesses including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause. There are many types of tests to make the diagnosis including blood ammonia levels, cerebrospinal fluid analysis and a glucose test.
The Lady Vol basketball team at Tennessee has enjoyed Pat Summit as their head coach for nearly four decades. She has brought her teams to eight NCAA Championships and 29 combined southeastern conference titles.
While the diagnosis is difficult, she is happy to at least know what she’s dealing with and will be facing it head on, coaching as long as she can. The treatments to slow the onset of dementia include some drug therapy and the use of mental stimulation aids such as flashcards and puzzles. Some research finds that for every one-point increase in cognitive activity, a 33% decrease in risk of Alzheimer’s is possible. Flashcards, puzzles and coaching may be just the ticket to slow this progression for Pat Summitt.