Ken Stabler, the late football legend, died in July 2015 of cancer. Now, just a few days before the Super Bowl, the biggest National Football League (NFL) game of the year, it has been revealed that Stabler suffered from the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The announcement was made by researchers at Boston University. Stabler had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Dr. Ann McKee, professor of neurology there, told the Associated Press.
Stabler was an NFL superstar quarterback and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. McKee said that CTE was widespread in his brain, with areas of severe damage to the regions that involve learning, memory, and regulation of emotion.
CTE has been diagnosed in NFL players who played football positions that involve lots of collisions, which increases the risk of concussion. "We've now found CTE in former NFL players who played every position except kicker," McKee told the Associated Press. "While we know on average that certain positions experience more repetitive head impacts and are more likely at greater risk for CTE, no position is immune."
Stabler's diagnosis was originally reported by The New York Times.
CTE is linked to repeated instances of trauma to the brain. Symptoms include memory loss, depression, poor control of emotions, and progressive dementia. Although it can only be diagnosed after death, CTE has been found in the brains of dozens of former football players.
Several retired NFL players have donated or say they intend to donate their brains to research on concussions and CTE. Former NFL linebacker Junior Seau was one of the first to do so. CTE was diagnosed after he committed suicide at age 43 in 2012. He had suffered from depression, but shot himself in the chest so that his brain would remain intact.
Stabler, who was 69 when he died, was known for his ability to escape tight situations on the field. As quarterback, he led the University of Alabama to an undefeated season in 1966. With the Oakland Raiders, he was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1974 and led the team to a 1977 Super Bowl victory. He also played for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.