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As the dialogue around the link between football-related concussions and brain illness again increases, one famous late NFL star has been revealed to have been suffering from the condition known to have affected many league players.
At some point before Frank Gifford’s August death, at age 84, the iconic running back and commentator was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). An statement from the Gifford family was issued by NBC News, the employer of widow Kathie Lee Gifford, on Wednesday — also announcing that Gifford’s brain is being donated for medical research.
“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,” reads the statement. “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.”
News of Gifford’s diagnosis comes as Sony rolls out its marketing plan for controversial Will Smith movie Concussion, a story about one doctor’s attempts to publicize CTE, its link to American football players and league attempts to silence the problem.
Commercials for the film will be airing over the course of the Thanksgiving holiday and on such NFL-friendly networks as ESPN.
Read the full statements from the Giffords 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.
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