Late NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford was suffering obvious symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his family said, and donated his brain to science in the hopes of furthering understanding of brain injuries. The Gifford family recently released a statement saying that CTE symptoms were found in Gifford’s brain, admitting that they “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,” according to the Winnipeg Sun.
The CTE found in Gifford’s brain is the latest in a line of CTE cases found in deceased football players. CTE, which can only be officially diagnosed after death when it is found in the brain, is the result of repeated brain trauma, which is found in people who might be exposed to regular strikes, such as football players. Symptoms associated with the condition include memory loss, impaired judgment, depression, and progressive dementia.
The Giffords said once they learned that CTE was found in Gifford’s brain, they hoped the discovery would help others learn more about the condition. In November 1960, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik crushed Gifford in a body blow that rendered the famed Hall of Famer unconscious. It was a hit that was believed to have shortened Gifford’s playing career, according to TSN, as he was hospitalized for 10 days and sidelined until 1962. Years later, Gifford was a frequent go-between with co-anchors Don Meredith and Howard Cosell.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that, while CTE was found in Gifford’s brain, the league was not going to wait until science discovered a solution for chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“This work will continue as the health and safety of our players remains our highest priority. We have more work to do — work that honours great men like Frank Gifford,” he said in a statement.
Interestingly, the Giffords also revealed that Frank Gifford experienced the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy “firsthand,” though they never outlined in their statement what exactly those symptoms were. They did, however, say that Gifford was following the studies about the recent revelations regarding CTE found in the brain, which involved discussion about its cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
The Gifford family’s statement went on to further outline the urgency with which CTE found in the brain needs to be studied in order to prevent further possibility of injury. ABC7 acknowledged that Gifford passed of natural causes in August at the age of 84, but the family recognized that CTE found in the brain was a progressive and degenerative sort of disease that could affect other football athletes.
CTE was found in Gifford’s brain when pathologists officially examined the former New York Giants star upon his passing. It was that diagnosis that inspired the Giffords to make the difficult discussion to donate Frank Gifford’s brain to science.
Goodell also said that the NFL has implemented 39 rule changes that have been yielding “measurable results” in the battle against CTE found in the brain of football players.
“We are working now to improve the safety of our game,” Goodell said. “The NFL has made numerous rules changes to the game, all to enhance player health and safety at all levels of football.”
For their part, the New York Giants offered their support to the Gifford family as they backed further studies into CTE found in the brain and said that the studies done on Gifford’s brain only go to support those studies.
“We have great respect and sympathy for the Gifford family,” the team said in a statement. “We all miss Frank dearly. We support the family’s decision to contribute to the discussion and research of an issue we take very seriously.”
While CTE may be found in the brains of football players, they are not the only ones affected. Boxers, hockey players and military veterans can also be affected by CTE, according to Boston University.
[Feature photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images]