Gifford’s family chose to have the former New York Giants star’s brain studied by pathologists, who determined that Gifford had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — a progressive degenerative brain disease believed to be related to head trauma sustained during his football career.
Gifford, the husband of “Today” anchor Kathie Lee Gifford, died of natural causes on Aug. 9 at the age of 84.
Read the Gifford family’s full statement below:
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.
Player safety in football remains a hot topic, and discussion is set to intensify with the release of Will Smith’s upcoming Oscar contender “Concussion,” in which the thesp plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor who first diagnosed CTE in pro football players and drew the connection between the condition and the repeated head trauma suffered in the game. In Variety’s review, critic Andrew Barker says that the film “pulls no punches in its critique of the NFL.”
Smith admitted that he took the role to help raise awareness of the condition. “There is a certain truth to the science that people aren’t aware of,” he said at the film’s premiere. “There are professional football players and parents who don’t have this information so for me it illuminates a reality around the game.”