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ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen announces Parkinson's disease diagnosis

Cassandra Negley
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Bill Rasmussen announced he has Parkinson's disease to raise awareness and speak for others. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images)

Bill Rasmussen, the man who co-founded ESPN in 1978, announced publicly in a piece for ESPN’s Front Row that he was diagnosed in 2014 with Parkinson’s disease.

Rasmussen, 86, said he chose to share his diagnosis now to “stir the collective, creative geniuses among us to successfully attack this progressive brain disease.” Parkinson’s impacts the nervous system and is different for everyone.

Now, by expanding the circle, by sharing my experiences, my hope is that I can help others who are impacted by Parkinson’s and we’ll all learn more together.

He wrote that he started to notice little differences in what he’s physically able to handle. He can no longer tie a tie or drive, but is still able to get around “quite well.” Though he’s had to alter his airport routine, he wrote, and ride a wheelchair to check-in, he continues to travel and tell ESPN’s story.

He founded the satellite TV station with his son, Scott. It first aired Sept. 7, 1979, and has grown into a sports media empire.

As was the case with his company’s growth, Rasmussen writes that he wants to see new interest, talent, research and dollars pushed toward finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

I always look at the positive side of people, projects, ideas, etc. For some reason, Parkinson’s is kind of an orphaned malady – people don’t like to talk about it, as if it were taboo. Well, 40 years ago, people didn’t want to talk about a 24-hour sports network either as if competing with “The Big Three” broadcast networks was taboo. We never stopped asking questions, solving problems and selling the dream. A lot of really good people did believe and we see the results of that effort today.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when brain cells that make dopamine, the chemical that coordinates movement, stop working or die out. An estimated nearly 1 million people have the disease in the U.S. and more than six million around the world, per the Parkinson’s Foundation. Actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with it in 1991 at age 29 and is commonly seen as the face of it through his foundation.

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