Three months after Frank Gifford died at age 84, the former NFL star’s family released an official statement on Wednesday, Nov. 25, revealing that he suffered from head trauma, and that they plan to donate his brain to medicine with hopes to bridge the gap between football and traumatic brain injuries.
“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,” the statement to Us Weekly from NBC News read. “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.”
The Giffords explained why they were championing this particular cause. “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 family continued. “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.”
NFL safety was of utmost concern to Frank — he played for the New York Giants for 12 years in the 1950s and early ’60s — in the final 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 wrote. “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.”
Frank Gifford died on Aug. 9, in his Connecticut home at age 84. After taking a brief leave of absence of the Today show, his famous wife Kathie Lee returned on Aug. 17, where she paid tribute to her late husband, whom she married in 1986. “I want to thank everybody for your love and your texts and your tweets…the outpouring has been extraordinary,” the mom of two shared at the time. “It’s a heck of a way to find out how loved you are. Believe me, my family and I got great strength and comfort from it.”
According to the longtime TV personality, Frank died in peace. “He passed away instantly that morning, all dressed in what he knew was my favorite outfit — white shirt, very tight black jeans — having his coffee, watching his TV, getting ready to go, ready for church, and excited about what we were gonna have for lunch,” Kathie Lee told her viewers at the time. “I’m grateful the Lord took him that way. Because the only thing Frank was ever afraid of in his entire life was being a burden to those he loved.”
Frank is survived by his wife and their two kids, Cody, 25, and Cassidy, 22, as well as three children from his first marriage to Maxine Avis.
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