Frank Gifford, a former NFL player, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and well known sportscaster, passed away at the age of 84 this past August. Originally, his death was claimed to be from natural causes, but studies have shown otherwise. Pathologists confirmed his death was linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive disease of the brain due to repetitive head injuries.
CTE is primarily found in football players and other athletes who experience regular head and brain trauma, such as concussions. This disease may take years after the last head injury to start affecting the brain, making it difficult to put together a case against sports leagues. Protein builds up in the brain, leading to the deterioration of brain tissue and causing side effects like memory loss, aggression, and eventually dementia.
Gifford’s family suspected these issues in Frank leading up to his death. Unfortunately, this disease can be found only when studying the brain in an autopsy. Researchers found that 87 of 91 deceased former football players’ brains showed signs of CTE.
Even with these studies, it is clear the NFL will be around for a long time. The Giffords simply released the pathologists’ findings to spread the word of this disease. For pro football players, it is difficult to look past the fame at the long term effects from this sport.
The Giffords hope that players become more aware of this issue and that the NFL Board of Directors and the teams consider improving the rules and regulations of physical contact. Witnessing first-hand the horrible outcome from repeated head trauma, their only hope is that something is done to decrease the chance of this happening to others.
Article Written by: Emma Rusnak