DEC 02, 2015 5:01 AM PST

NFL Great Frank Gifford Had Brain Disease

Frank Gifford, NFL Hall of Famer, sportscaster and husband of Kathie Lee Gifford passed away in August 2015 at the age of 84 of natural causes, but he also had a form of brain damage associated with head trauma. In statement released this week, his family revealed that an autopsy proved that Gifford suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have detected the brain disorder Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE in 96 percent of the brains of NFL players that they examined
 
Frank Gifford had CTE

CTE is a progressive brain disease linked to the types of brain injuries and head trauma common in football. The disease is degenerative and is caused by repeated blows to the head. Its effects on patients are devastating, leading to severe migraines, depression and dementia. 

 A statement released by Gifford’s family read in part, "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.” The family said they were choosing to release the results of the autopsy so the problem of head injuries in the NFL could be addressed.
 
“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.” 
 
CTE can be diagnosed definitively only after death. When brain tissue is examined, a build up of the protein tau is found. This excess of tau spills over into brain tissue and is the marker for CTE. The protein effectively shuts off the neuronal activity by clogging up the routes of neural transmission in the brain. It’s these transmissions that control emotions, memory and judgement.
 
A lawsuit brought by thousands of former NFL players against the NFL was settled in April 2015. The settlement provides up to $5 million per player to cover expenses related to medical conditions resulting from head trauma. The suit alleged that the NFL did not take concussion protocols seriously and did not keep players safe after injuries. 

CNN Sports analyst Christine Brennan said that Gifford’s fame would bring more awareness to the head injury issue in the NFL, in an article on CNN.com she said, "Frank Gifford is perhaps the biggest name for everyone, from Topeka to Toledo to Spokane, of someone now who has had CTE. ... And once you put a very famous face on something horrible, it does tend to have an impact unlike anything else."

See the video below for more information on CTE and its effects on the brain.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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