Giants Hall of Famer Frank Gifford suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a concussion-related brain disease, as well as symptoms from repeated head trauma later in his life, his family announced Wednesday.
Gifford died of natural causes in August at the age of 84.
His family said they decided to have Gifford's brain studied after his death "in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury," according to the statement they released.
"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 statement said. "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."
The Giants issued a statement as well. "We have great respect and sympathy for the Gifford family," the team said. "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."
Gifford played 12 seasons in the NFL from 1952-64. While he enjoyed a Hall of Fame career, perhaps the most iconic image of his playing days is of him knocked unconscious by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in 1960. That led to a brief retirement, but he returned to the Giants in 1962.
CTE only can be diagnosed postmortem, and has become found in many former NFL players. In September, Boston University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that found 87 of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains to science tested positive for CTE. Among those were Colts Hall of Fame tight end and Long Island high school football legend John Mackey, former Giants defensive back Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in August, and Jovan Belcher, a former Chiefs linebacker and West Babylon native.
And now, Gifford.
"[We] find comfort in knowing that by disclosing his condition we might contribute positively to the ongoing conversation that needs to be had," the family's statement said, "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."