Kathie Lee shares struggles of Giants legend Frank Gifford’s CTE issues before death - “It was heartbreaking to look at it”

Frank Gifford and his wife Kathie Lee in their later stages
Frank Gifford and his wife Kathie Lee in their later stages

The final years of Frank Gifford's life may very well be a sad cautionary tale. On August 9, 2015, the legendary NFL figure, who first made his name as a running back/defensive back/wide receiver for the New York Giants, passed away a week before he was to turn 85.

An autopsy revealed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE.

In an interview with People, which was conducted to celebrate the widespread release of the documentary Requiem for a Running Back, Gifford's widow, television personality Kathie Lee, recounted the struggle to comprehend his final condition:

“It was heartbreaking to look at it. We found damage to the hippocampus, which is the center for short-term memory…it’s the cumulative aggregate blows that you take over a lifetime.”

Frank Gifford's son Cody reflects on football's impact on his family, promoting Requiem for a Running Back

Also on hand to speak was Gifford's son Cody, who appears in the film, having funded its widespread release. He recounted a harrowing trait of his father's brain condition:

“In the span of one minute or two minutes…he had forgotten everything I had just said.”

Cody had followed in the elder Gifford's footsteps by committing to the University of Southern California as a walk-on wide receiver, but an ankle injury derailed his career. He ultimately left the sport to pursue filmmaking:

“The NFL gave my father a life, But at the same time, there were dangers," he recalled. "It’s an intoxicating thing if you grow up loving football your entire life. I lived it and breathed it. It’s hard to walk away.”

Kathie Lee concurred with him:

“Nobody would care more about people and kids being hurt, than Frank would have.”

The film, which tells the life of the late running back Lewis Carpenter, first came out in select movie theaters in 2016. When Cody first saw it the following year, he knew he had to get it out to a wider audience:

“I just let out a big sigh. It struck me all the similarities these guys had gone through. I said (to Carpenter's daughter Rebecca, who directed the film), ‘How can we help direct traffic to this?’"

Requiem for a Running Back has been available on Amazon, Google YouTube and Apple iTunes since Dec. 1.

Edited by Kanav Seth