TOUCHED BY LYME: Baseball’s Tom Seaver diagnosed with dementia

by Dorothy Kupcha Leland

According to reports by the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other news outlets, baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has been diagnosed with dementia. This comes some 28 years after Seaver was first diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Seaver was an iconic star of the New York Mets in the 1960s and 70s. He first learned he had Lyme disease in 1991. With treatment, he seemed better. Then, in 2012, he started feeling bad again–which he described as “like having a perpetual case of the flu”–and he had trouble remembering things.

After symptoms worsened, he was diagnosed and treated for neurological Lyme disease. In 2013, the news media widely reported that Seaver was “winning” his battle against Lyme.

Fast forward to now. The New York team plans a June 2019 50th anniversary celebration of the “Miracle Mets” that won the 1969 World Series (in which Seaver played a pivotal role.) Sadly, Seaver will be unable to participate in the festivities.

This week, his family announced that, due to dementia, Seaver has retired from public life. He will continue to work at Seaver Vineyards, founded by the retired player and wife Nancy near Calistoga, California.

Many questions

In addition to the sympathy we feel for Seaver and his family, the situation raises many questions within the Lyme community. What initial treatment did Seaver receive when he was first diagnosed in 1991? What treatment did he get when he was diagnosed again in 2012? For how long? And where’s the research money for neurological Lyme?

It’s long been known that Lyme disease can cause a variety of cognitive symptoms, including dementia. But much more research is needed in order to figure how best to treat it.

Kris Kristofferson, the musician and actor, is another celebrity who has faced dementia-like symptoms from Lyme disease. I highly recommend you read the following article by Dana Parish: “A Slow Slipping Away,” Kris Kristofferson’s Long-Undiagnosed Battle with Lyme Disease.”

TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland,’s Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at



Stories like these don’t make the scientific literature, but they abound.  We desperately need more research in this area.

More on the relationship between Alzheimer’s, Dementia, ALS and Lyme:  Kris Kristofferson was wrongly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had Lyme Disease. For years doctors told Kristofferson it was either Alzheimer’s or dementia, and may have been the result of blows to his head from boxing, football and rugby. The medication he was given gave him bad side effects and didn’t help.  Since starting treatment for Lyme Kristofferson “has made remarkable strides.” His wife Lisa said,

“all of the sudden he was back.” Although he still has some bad days, there are other days when he is “perfectly normal,” she said.  Bacteria are usually ignored despite its historical and current significance in dementia research.  Today, the main bacterial threat to acquiring dementia comes from Lyme disease—a bacterium borrelia burgdorferi.




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