Who is CTE

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy affects people from all walks of life; men, women, athletes, soldiers, abused women and children and people with disabilities. Even if you don't suffer a concussion, milder, repeated head trauma may eventually result in CTE.

Here are the stories of a few people who have been either diagnosed with CTE or with symtoms consistent with CTE. By sharing their stories we hope we can help you better understand the symptoms and scope of this debilitating condition.

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Frank Gifford

Francis Newton Gifford (August 16, 1930 – August 9, 2015) was an American football player and television sports commentator. After a 12-year playing career as a running back and flanker for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL), he was a play-by-play announcer and commentator for 27 years on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

Gifford won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1956, the same season he won his only NFL Championship. During his career, he participated in five league championship games and was named to eight Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. After retiring as a player, Gifford was an Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, known for his work on ABC’s Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports and the Olympics. He was married to television host Kathie Lee Gifford from 1986 until his death on August 9, 2015.

In November 2015, Gifford’s family revealed that he had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The family said, “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 … 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.

Ken Stabler

Kenneth Michael “Ken” Stabler (December 25, 1945 – July 8, 2015), nicknamed “Snake,” was an American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Oakland Raiders (1970–1979), Houston Oilers (1980–1981) and New Orleans Saints (1982–1984). He played college football for the University of Alabama.Stabler was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Stabler died of colon cancer on July 8, 2015, at the age of 69. He had been diagnosed with the disease since February 2015. In February 2016, the New York Times reported that researchers at Boston University discovered high Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in Stabler’sbrain after his death. Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University told The Associated Press that the disease was widespread throughout his brain, with “quite severe” damage to the regions involving learning, memory and regulation of emotion.

In 2015, the XOXO Stabler Foundation a 501c(3) nonprofit founded by former NFL quarterback Ken Stabler took up a cause that directly affected the foundation’s chairman: sports-related brain trauma.

The foundation’s new initiative XOXO Game Plan for Change is focused on changing the course and culture of contact sports to increase sports safety and reduce brain trauma in athletes. To facilitate change, the XOXO Stabler Foundation funds research on related brain diseases, methods of treatment and prevention, and educational outreach.

Owen Thomas

An autopsy conducted in 2010 on the brain of Owen Thomas, a 21-year-old junior lineman at the University of Pennsylvania who committed suicide, showed early stages of CTE, making him the second youngest person to be diagnosed with the condition. The doctors who performed the autopsy indicated that they found no causal connection between the nascent CTE and Thomas’s suicide. There were no records of Thomas missing any playing time due to concussion, but as a player who played hard and “loved to hit people,” Thomas may have played through concussions and received thousands of subconcussive impacts on the brain.

Nathan Stiles

In October 2010, 17-year-old Nathan Stiles died hours after his high school homecoming football game, where he took a hit that would be the final straw in a series of subconcussive and concussive blows to the head for the highschooler. He was later diagnosed with CTE, making him the youngest reported CTE case to date.

Tony Dorsett

Since the beginning of his life, Tony Dorsett has always been determined to prove his strength – no matter the odds that are stacked against him. From humble beginnings in a quiet Pennsylvania mill county, Dorsett always felt he was destined for greater things. One of Dorsett’s passions that drove him to succeed was football. After a stellar high school and college football career, Tony Dorsett would go on to become a running back in the NFL for both the Dallas Cowboys, and later the Denver Broncos.  Tony Dorsett was considered an underdog when he first played football in high school, weighing in at just 147 pounds. Dorsett’s coaches were skeptical that someone of his stature would be able to stand up against other linebackers on the team, but his competitive nature and talent would prove them wrong.

NBC News interview May 2016
After a stellar high school and college football career, Tony Dorsett would go on to become a running back in the NFL for both the Dallas Cowboys, and later the Denver Broncos.

He became one of the only two players to have received the Heisman Trophy, win the Super Bowl, conquer the College National Championship, and be inducted into the College Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

However, seeing as running backs typically have more head to head contact than any other position in the league, Dorsett would take roughly 20 to 30 head collisions per game. This created a problem in Dorsett’s NFL post-career, as he encountered a new obstacle that couldn’t be overcome on the football field.

However, seeing as running backs typically have more head to head contact than any other position in the league, Dorsett would take roughly 20 to 30 head collisions per game. This created a problem in Dorsett’s NFL post-career, as he encountered a new obstacle that couldn’t be overcome on the football field.

In November 2013, Tony Dorsett confirmed that he displayed symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of the repeated heavy blows to the head that he endured playing football. Citing memory loss as one of the primary reasons for leaving the NFL, Dorsett began to struggle with the hardships that resulted from his degenerative brain condition.Now, Dorsett struggles with the simplest of brain functions. Dorsett often times has difficulty remembering the faces of people who have been around him all his life and just remembering simple directions has become a huge burden upon his memory.

Ryan Freel

Ryan Freel was a promising American professional baseball player, whose talent allowed him to slide to first for a variety of teams in Major League Baseball. Known as a “utility player,” Freel played such positions as second base, third base, and all three outfield positions for numerous teams including the Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, and Kansas City Royals. Known for winning games at any cost, Freel was a rough and tumble kind of player who would charge headfirst into the home plate, recklessly dive to catch balls, and would put the team ahead of his own well-being.

Playing six seasons for the Toronto Minor Leagues, Ryan Freel would soon make his major league debut on April 4, 2001. As a free agent, Freel was sought after for his impressive abilities to hit home runs, thrive in the outfield and to steal bases. In his best year, Freel would go on to hit .277 with 3 home runs, 28 RBI, 37 stolen bases, and score 74 runs in 143 games for the Reds in 2004. Not only was Ryan well respected for his talent, but also for his kindness to his fans. However, Ryan Freel’s fearlessness came with some drawbacks, as the unrelenting concussions during his MLB career would pose a greater threat than the batter on the opposing team.

To Ryan Freel, concussions were just another aspect of his daily life that he endured, as head injuries became commonplace to him even as a child. These injuries would only follow into his MLB career. Suffering yet another head injury in 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles, Freel was added to the disabled players list and retired the following year. Struggling with the repercussions of his head injuries, Freel was found dead on December 22, 2012 as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On May 28, 2007, Ryan Freel suffered another terrible head injury on the outfield as he dove into another player while catching a ball, damaging both his neck and his head. After only a month and 5 days following the incident, Freel would return to play baseball. Suffering yet another head injury in 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles, Freel was added to the disabled players list and retired the following year. Struggling with the repercussions of his head injuries, Freel was found dead on December 22, 2012 as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A year after his death, the Boston University School of Medicine officially diagnosed Freel with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when testing his brain tissue after death.

Eric Lindros

Born in Ontario, Canada, Eric Lindros has always felt at home on the ice. Spanning a long career playing hockey, Lindros played for such teams as the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars.

Standing at 6 ft. 4 in., Lindros could stand up to most anyone on the ice; however, a long span of injuries suffered while playing hockey caused Lindros to miss significant playtime and to question not only his physical health, but also his mental health. Lindros came to fear that the multiple concussions sustained while playing hockey would change the direction his life was taking.

Lindros believed the relentless concussions were causing him to become highly aggressive and to lose his sense of self — symptoms commonly associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Depression, marital strife, as well as suicidal thoughts plagued his mind as a result of the multiple head injuries. Currently, Lindros is a compelling advocate who strongly encourages anyone with traumatic brain injuries or CTE-related symptoms to get essential treatment.

Currently, Lindros is a compelling advocate who strongly encourages anyone with traumatic brain injuries or CTE-related symptoms to get essential treatment. While the study and research of CTE is still ongoing, it is important to acknowledge the condition so that future hockey players may enjoy a bright future beyond their career.