The family of Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford says signs of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy were found in his brain after his death.
In a statement released through NBC News on Wednesday, the family says Gifford suffered from unspecified "cognitive and behavioral symptoms" in his later years. He died of natural causes at his Connecticut home in August at age 84.
His widow, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a host of NBC's "Today" show.
The statement says that the 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."
CTE can be diagnosed only after death. It has been found in the brains of dozens of former players.
The New York Giants halfback and flanker's career almost ended in 1960 when he took a massive hit from Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik. Gifford was knocked unconscious and couldn't play again for 18 months.
Bednarik died in March.
"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 family's statement read.
"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 statement 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."
Gifford was aware in recent years of the new information connecting repetitive head trauma to cognitive and behavioral symptoms, which he experienced himself, the family said.
After Gifford's 12-year career in the NFL, he became a broadcaster, calling games for ABC's "Monday Night Football" for 27 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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