Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who died this past summer of natural causes, suffered from the concussion-related brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his family said Wednesday.
Gifford died suddenly at his Connecticut home on Aug. 9 at age 84.
“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,” the family’s statement read.
“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.”
Gifford led the New York Giants to a league championship in 1956 and later teamed up with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in the Monday Night Football booth beginning in 1971. Gifford was the centerpiece of a Giants offense that went to five NFL title games in the 1950s and ’60s.
“We have great respect and sympathy for the Gifford family,” the Giants 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.”
Researchers have said CTE is triggered by repeated head trauma and can cause memory loss, depression and dementia.
Gifford’s widow, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a host for NBC’s “Today.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.