Long-time UNC sportscaster Woody Durham diagnosed with condition that affects language expression

June 1, 2016

Woody Durham, long-time voice of North Carolina football and men’s basketball, announced Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with a neurocognitive condition — primary progressive aphasia —  that will affect his language expression. 

Primary progressive aphasia is a rare condition that affects a person’s ability to speak. Over time, people diagnosed with the disorder slowly lose the ability to speak. 

Durham, a 1963 UNC graduate, acted as a broadcaster for Tar Heel football and men’s basketball for 40 years before retiring in 2011. He called more than 1,800 games and was named the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year 13 times. 

In 2015, Durham was awarded the Curt Gowdy Award for electronic media by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. 

Durham announced his condition in an open letter to the North Carolina community, included below in its entirety. 

“Last winter, I was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder, primary progressive aphasia, that affects my language expression. I want to tell you this because I will no longer be doing any public speaking. I can still enjoy the company of friends and traveling with my wife, Jean, but I am not able to address groups as I did in the past. While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it.

Our entire family is grateful for the incredible care we have received from a group of very talented medical professionals, led by Dr. James Kurz and Dr. Daniel Kaufer, of UNC Health Care. They have helped me adapt to this diagnosis and set up a treatment plan that will help me manage my day-to-day activities as I continue to enjoy retirement.

As in the past, I will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events as my schedule permits; and be part of civic and other charitable endeavors throughout the state. As part of these events, we want to make people more aware of primary progressive aphasia, and the impact that these neurocognitive disorders can have on individuals, families and friends. Along with raising awareness, we hope to encourage financial support for continued research and treatment in our state, as well as nationally.

I also hope to meet many more of the people that enjoyed our radio broadcasts in the 40 years I was privileged to be the “Voice of the Tar Heels.” Those greetings and kind words have meant so much to me in the last five years, and hold a very special place in my heart.”


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