Raiders great Ken Stabler had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy
Stabler's family discussed the effects CTE had on his life and personality as he grew older with the New York Times.
Last July, former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler passed away due to complications with colon cancer at the age of 69. On Wednesday morning, the New York Times announced that doctors in Massachusetts discovered high Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in Stabler's brain after his death.
“He had moderately severe disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, the chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University School of Medicine who conducted the examination. “Pretty classic. It may be surprising since he was a quarterback, but certainly the lesions were widespread, and they were quite severe, affecting many regions of the brain.”
Stabler's family also spoke with the Times about his life and the effects CTE had on it during his later years.
It was not until the final few years that his family recognized a rapid decline in his cognitive functions, too. Several symptoms of C.T.E. began to show themselves quickly, beginning with Stabler’s complaints of a high-pitched ringing in his head. In his final year, he once grit his teeth so hard that he broke a bridge in his mouth and had to get dental implants.
“There were days when I walked in the door and looked at his face, and I could tell,” (Stabler's partner Kim) Bush said. “He was sitting in his chair, because he was always waiting for me, and the news was on and whatnot, and he had his head laid back, and his eyes just scrunched up so tight that I used to think that would give you a headache in itself, just the pure pressure of squinting like that.”
Noise and bright lights became enemies. A lifelong lover of music, Stabler stopped listening to the radio in the car, choosing to drive hours in silence. He increasingly complained about the clanging of kitchen dishes and the volume of the television.
Family and friends found him repeating himself, sharing stories privately or during public events that he had told just minutes before. He lost his sense of direction, pointing north when he spoke about the coast just a few miles south of his home in Gulfport, Miss. Driving, he became flustered at four-way stop signs.
In the fall of 2014, he moved to Arizona to be closer to his oldest daughter, Kendra Stabler Moyes, 45, and her twin sons, 17-year-old Justin and Jack, who play high school football.
“I remember them calling me and saying, ‘Mom, Papa keeps stopping at green lights,’ ” Stabler Moyes said.
Stabler first promised his brain for CTE research when he heard about Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau committing suicide in 2012. “I asked him, point blank: ‘Are you willing to participate in the study? Is that something you want to do?’ ” Bush said. “He said: ‘Yeah, I want to do that. I should definitely do that.’ ”
The following video, posted to the Times' web site, shows Kim Bush as well as Kendra Stabler Moyes talking about the various effects CTE had on the end of Stabler's life.
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