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Ken Stabler found to have brain disease linked to head trauma. Here’s what we know.

Ken Stabler during a radio broadcast during the first round of the Regions Charity Classic at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge in Hoover, Alabama, on May 18, 2007.
Ken Stabler during a radio broadcast during the first round of the Regions Charity Classic at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge in Hoover, Alabama, on May 18, 2007.
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Ken Stabler, a legendary NFL quarterback, suffered from a long-term disease brought on by the blows to the head he took as a football player, according to the New York Times.

Stabler, who led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl win in 1977, is just the latest former NFL player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain.

So far, Boston University researchers have studied 94 former NFL players and found symptoms of CTE in 90 of them, including seven former quarterbacks.

Stabler died of colon cancer in July. But as he aged, the New York Times reported, he also experienced symptoms similar to dementia — depression, confusion, and memory loss — although he was only in his 60s when he passed away.

After years of denial, the NFL is finally starting to grapple with the long-term damage the game is causing players, including instituting rule changes to try to reduce the number of concussions. But the CTE diagnosis of a football legend in the days before the Super Bowl is a grim reminder of the damage football can do.

Go deeper:

  • The New Yorker asked in 2011 if the concussion crisis would destroy the NFL, and looked at the paradox that the best parts of football are also what make it most dangerous.
  • PBS's excellent League of Denial documentary looked at how much the NFL knew, and when, about the long-term damage to players.
  • Boston University's Ann McKee is a devoted football fan — and as the woman unraveling the mysteries of what it does to the brain, Grantland wrote, she's accused of trying to destroy the sport.

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