NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease thought to be tied to repeated hits to the head, his family announced Wednesday.
Gifford, a former New York Giants running back and Monday Night Football analyst, died in August at age 84. His death was sudden but was from natural causes, his family said at the time.
In a statement released Wednesday, the family said it decided to have his brain tested for the disease, which is commonly found in former football players, because of "suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma." Researchers confirmed that Gifford had CTE.
"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 family's statement said. "His entire adult life Frank was a champion for others, but especially for those without the means or platform to have their voices heard."
The statement continued:
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.
Researchers at Boston University said in September that they have found CTE in 87 of the 91 former NFL players they have studied, though they cautioned that their sample may be slightly skewed from studying players who were already suspected of having the disease.
Gifford sat out the entire 1961 season after suffering a hit the year before that left him unconscious on the field.