NFL Legend Frank Gifford Had CTE in Brain: What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

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Frank Gifford looks on during a halftime ceremony of a game between the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 3, 2014. He passed away in August 2015. (Photo: Getty Images)

Frank Gifford, the Pro Football Hall of Famer and husband of TODAY host Kathie Lee Gifford, had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in his brain, according to news reports.

Gifford had experienced symptoms of CTE before his death, and signs of the disease were also found in his brain, which was studied after he had died, the Associated Press reports.

“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,” according to a Gifford family statement, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Related: New Test Could Save Kids With Concussions

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE, is a brain disease that is linked with repeated trauma to the brain, including concussions. There has been evidence of CTE in boxers since the 1920s, according to the Boston University CTE Center, but the disease has been increasingly found in professional football players.

CTE can only be definitively diagnosed after death.

Earlier this year, a study of 91 brains from former NFL players revealed that 87 of them had signs of CTE. Symptoms of CTE include aggression, depression, confusion, memory and judgment problems, impulse control issues, and progressive dementia.

The suicides of NFL players Dave Duerson and Junior Seau have been linked with CTE. In both cases, the men shot themselves in the heart, not the head, so their brains were able to be analyzed by researchers — and in both cases, signs of CTE were found.

Earlier this year, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced he was retiring from professional football because he was concerned about the concussion risks from the sport.

Read This Next: Chris Borland Retires From NFL Over Concussion Fears: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worth The Risk’

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