Frank Gifford

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Frank Gifford’s family says Hall of Famer suffered from CTE

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Hall of Fame quarterback Frank Gifford was suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) when he died in August at age 84, his family said in a statement on Wednesday.

Gifford was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and he played in five NFL Championship games with the New York Giants in the 1950s and 1960s. He missed 18 months of play in the prime of his career when in 1960 he suffered a severe head injury from a hit by Philadelphia Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik. The hit was one of the most famous in the league’s history.

In the statement, Gifford’s family says it decided to disclose the information of “the debilitating effects of head trauma” from which Gifford suffered because he has long promoted player safety:

“During the last years of his life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms—which he experienced firsthand. We miss him every day, now more than ever, but find comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had; that he might be an inspiration for others suffering with this disease that needs to be addressed in the present; and that we might be a small part of the solution to an urgent problem concerning anyone involved with football, at any level.”

Gifford’s widow, Kathie Lee, works for NBC.

The full statement reads as follows:

After losing our beloved husband and father, Frank Gifford, we as a family made the difficult decision to have his brain studied in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury.

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 recently diagnosed his condition as that of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)—a progressive degenerative brain disease.

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. His entire adult life Frank was a champion for others, but especially for those without the means or platform to have their voices heard. He was a man who loved the National Football League until the day he passed, and one who recognized that it was—and will continue to be—the players who elevated this sport to its singular stature in American society.

During the last years of his life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms—which he experienced firsthand. We miss him every day, now more than ever, but find comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had; that he might be an inspiration for others suffering with this disease that needs to be addressed in the present; and that we might be a small part of the solution to an urgent problem concerning anyone involved with football, at any level.

The Gifford family will continue to support the National Football League and its recent on-field rule changes and procedures to make the game Frank loved so dearly—and the players he advocated so tirelessly for—as safe as possible.”