Frank Gifford, the Hall of Fame NFL player turned broadcaster, was suffering from "the debilitating effects of head trauma" from playing football when he died last summer at 84, his family said in a statement Wednesday.
Gifford, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who took part in five NFL championship games with the Giants in the 1950s and '60s, played offense and defense, and missed 18 months of his career after absorbing one of the most storied hits in the history of the NFL. In a 1960 game against Philadelphia, he was knocked out cold by Chuck Bednarik. At the time, it was said Gifford had suffered what was called "a deep brain concussion."
Gifford is now one of the highest-profile former players to have suffered from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain deterioration caused by big hits and a number of smaller, repetitive ones.
The announcement came through NBC News, for which Gifford's widow, Kathie Lee, works. CTE presently can be detected only by studying brain tissue after death. The family didn't say who performed the diagnosis or the severity of the disease, so it's difficult to determine what effect the finding will have on the emerging study of the disease.
Doctors at Boston University created a four-stage scale to delineate how advanced the disease was at the time of a patient's death. Unlike former players such as Junior Seau, who died before he was 50 and was later found to have CTE, Gifford was 84 and some of his symptoms might overlap with those found commonly in people his age.
"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)," the family statement said.
The family would not be eligible for any award from the lawsuit settlement between the NFL and the retired players who accused the league of hiding from them the dangers of repeated head hits. Only players who were found to have CTE and who died before the settlement was approved in late April may receive up to $4 million.
RAMS WR SHOT: Suspended Rams receiver Stedman Bailey was shot and critically wounded as he and four others were sitting in a car outside a home in the Miami area, police said. Bailey had surgery for undisclosed injuries; police said he was in critical but stable condition. Police said they were looking for suspects.
MANZIEL UPDATE: Johnny Manziel's benching might not mean his days with the Browns are dwindling. "I certainly hope not," coach Mike Pettine said in explaining his decision to demote Manziel because of the QB's off-field behavior. Pettine was angry after a video emerged of Manziel partying last week in Texas.
LYNCH HAS SURGERY: Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had surgery to repair an injury related to a sports hernia and will miss at least three weeks.
LONDON CALLING, TWICE? The Redskins could become the first team to play two games in London in one season. The Redskins face the Bengals on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium, the NFL announced. Washington also could wind up facing the Rams a week earlier at Twickenham Stadium, depending on the Redskins' finish in the NFC East this season.
BRONCOS SIGN PONDER: With Peyton Manning out until at least mid December, Denver bolstered its depth by signing former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder.
RAMS: QB Case Keenum returned to practice on a limited basis after missing a workout due to a concussion.