In Greenwich, Frank Gifford’s Family Hopes to Boost Conversation on Concussions and Brain Disease

Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford. Photo Legacy.com

After Frank Gifford, the former New York Giants Player and NFL Hall of Famer turned sportscaster died on August 9 at the age of 84, his family made the difficult decision to have his brain studied.

Mr. Gifford played with the Giants for 12 years and retired in 1964. After being tackled by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in 1960, a hit that left him unconscious, Mr. Gifford missed an entire year of football.

Though Mr. Gifford, who lived in Greenwich with his family, including TODAY show personality Kathie Lee Gifford, was originally thought to have died of natural causes, a statement released the day before Thanksgiving, provided an update.

IMG_9224 Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford- photo credit Cara Gilbride

Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford at a 2014 DART fundraiser in Stamford. photo credit Cara Gilbride

The family’s statement explained that Mr. Gifford suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a brain disease often associated with concussions.

“We as a family made the difficult decision to have (Gifford’s) brain studied in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury,” his family said in their statement:

“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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