By Jim Gehman
After discovering he had sleep apnea, an aliment which causes stoppages in breathing while sleeping that can result in a loss of oxygen to the brain, Kennard began successful treatment for it, and felt Green should be checked to see if he had it too.
“I’d been having lots of issues. I mean, I had two heart attacks; I had two strokes, feeling like crap every day. He goes, ‘Man, I think you should go get tested. This might have some affect on all the things going on with you,’” said Green, who played 14 seasons [1979-1992] in the NFL with the Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. “So I got tested, and sure and behold, it was a major issue. I got treatment, which is the Herbst device, and instantly I started getting better sleep. I wasn’t tired. I started being a little bit more active.
“I said, ‘You know what? Derek, if this happened to you and then me, I’ve got a message for my brethren out there that are suffering from the same thing because they’re like me and don’t even know what it is.’ I had no idea what it was prior to him telling me and Dave (Gergen, President of Gergen’s Orthodontic Laboratories) meeting me and telling me all about it.
“We started a crusade, basically. We said, hey, let’s start educating our communities, the people around Arizona, some of our teammates, and kind of see where it goes. So, we started it and it began to grow. Of all the guys we reached, and there have been a huge number of them, we couldn’t have done any of it without the help of the NFLPA and particularly (Executive Director NFLPA/PAF) Andre Collins.”
Founded by Gergen, Green and Kennard in 2014, the Pro Player Health Alliance (PPHA) is an organization is focused on helping former NFL players, by providing testing and treatment options for those who suffer from sleep apnea. The (PPHA) is also dedicated to educating and raising sleep apnea awareness.
“We assumed because of all the issues that were going on with me, Derek and other players that we talked to, that we could help a lot. That was our primary goal,” says Green. “We knew Dave’s background in the orthodontic dental field along with the sleeping breathing academy that he’s associated with; we had a lot of knowledge we could use to help players around the country.
“It kind of just took off from just simply trying to help guys from our teams to guys who we may have played against to basically, hey, let’s go all over the country. As we continued to go, we found out so many people that had no idea what sleep apnea was and conversely, there’s so many people that had it also.”
And while Green may have found the end zone 67 times during his NFL career, he feels it’s another touchdown when he and the (PPHA) makes a difference in someone’s life.
“That’s what has kept me going. Because, first and foremost, I know how it has changed my quality of life,” Green said. “And when I got feedback from different players, not even players, people in our community where we did the first (seminar), within weeks wives were contacting us and telling about how it’s changed their marriage and husbands. Guys weren’t even allowed to sleep in their wife’s room because of the snoring they were doing. Some wives were so afraid because their husband stopped breathing at night, they couldn’t sleep. It just changed their quality of life.
“I’m a testament to what it does, how it can help you. I see my dear friend Derek, how it has changed and inspired him. But the reward is when people come back to you and tell you a story about how they changed their quality of life. And you know deep down that had they continued, something bad would have happened. Whether it’d be a stroke like me, a heart attack, or even death in some instances. That’s not natural. You know that it’s probably related to sleep apnea.”