Pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who died in August, suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a concussion-related brain disease, his family said in a statement Wednesday.
“While Frank passed away from natural causes this past August at the age of 84, our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed when a team of pathologists recent diagnosed his condition as that of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTW)–a progressive degenerative brain disease,” the statement said.
Gifford sat out the 1961 NFL season due to complications from a head injury suffered on a notoriously brutal hit by Chuck Bednarik in 1960. He returned to the field in 1962 and played three more seasons before retiring for good in 1964.
Gifford’s family said they made the “difficult decision” to donate his brain to science in “hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury.”
“We decided to disclose our loved one’s condition to honor Frank’s legacy of promoting player safety dating back to his involvement in the formation of the NFL Players Association in the 1950s,” the statement adds.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also released a statement on Gifford’s diagnosis.
We appreciate the Gifford family's desire to help the medical community understand more about CTE, and we are grateful for their support of the league's efforts to improve safety in our game. At the NFL, we are supporting grants to NIH and Boston University as well as other independent efforts to research the effects of repetitive head trauma.
But we are not waiting until science provides all of the answers. We are working now to improve the safety of our game. The NFL has made numerous rules changes to the game, all to enhance player health and safety at all levels of football. These include 39 rule changes and better training and practice protocols that are yielding measurable results.
The family’s statement also notes that Gifford had “dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms–which he experience first hand.”
The Gifford family said they hope, by sharing Gifford’s condition, they can positively contribute to the ongoing conversation regarding concussion-related brain trauma.
Gifford spent 12 seasons with the New York Giants and then went on to become the play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football.
- Xandria James