Frank Gifford Suffered from Brain Disease Related to Concussions, Family Reveals
"We decided to disclose our loved one s condition to honor Frank's legacy of promoting player safety," the late NFL star's family said in a statement
Former New York Giants star and NFL broadcaster Frank Gifford suffered from a concussion-related brain disease, his family revealed Wednesday.
Gifford, who died of natural causes in August at age 84, suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, his family discovered after making the decision to have his brain studied after his death.
“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 Gifford family said in a statement to PEOPLE Wednesday. “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.”
The revelation comes as the NFL is under increased scrutiny for brain injuries suffered by its players.
“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 family statement continued. “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, who was married to the Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford for 29 years, spent 12 seasons with the Giants.
The family said it will continue to support the NFL and “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.”
In the upcoming film Concussion, Will Smith plays the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE in the brain of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster as well as other football players. Smith previously told PEOPLE that working on Concussion opened his eyes to the dangers NFL players can face.
“The thing that was a revelation for me with this is that it’s not really the big hits that are the problem, but more of the issue is the repetitive head trauma,” he told PEOPLE earlier this month.
Following her husband’s death, Kathie Lee paid tribute to the NFL legend.
“Frank was a beautiful man with a beautiful, generous heart,” Kathie Lee told PEOPLE in August. “He lived fully and loved deeply, and he leaves an amazing legacy of lives touched and changed.”