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Brain of Ken Stabler found to have CTE

Ken Stabler AP

Researchers have found that the brain of the late Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System, told the New York Times that Stabler had high Stage 3 CTE, which is consistent with a player who spent many years playing football and then lived for decades after retiring. Stabler died of colon cancer at age 69.

“The very severity of the disease, at least that we’re seeing in American football players, seems to correlate with the duration of play,” McKee said. “The longer they play, the more severe we see it. But it’s also the years since retirement, to the age of death — not only the longer you play, but the longer you live after you stop playing.”

Stabler long joked about how hard he was on his own body, both in the way he played the game — unafraid to take big hits — and in his hard-drinking, hard-living off the field style. Those jokes may come to seem less funny as we learn more about the way Stabler’s physical and mental health deteriorated in is final years.

A finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Stabler’s enshrinement will be voted upon on Saturday.

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54 Responses to “Brain of Ken Stabler found to have CTE”
  1. fartsmella says: Feb 3, 2016 9:03 AM

    CBS reported last night that 90-100% of current NFL players have some sort of CTE.

  2. shafty131313 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:06 AM

    Has anyone who has had a posthumous brain exam after playing pro football NOT been found to have “CTE”? No? Of course not, because then it would be harder to sue the NFL for mega-bucks for the surviving family, when we inevitably get to that point…..

  3. gopack12go says: Feb 3, 2016 9:13 AM

    Um, the longer one lives in general, the greater deterioration of brain tissue, regardless of playing football. Just sayin’.

  4. idpfantasyfootball says: Feb 3, 2016 9:17 AM

    Vote for The Snake!

  5. nflofficeadmin says: Feb 3, 2016 9:22 AM

    Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be near him.

  6. jmac1013 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:24 AM

    I haven’t put much effort in educating myself about CTE, but I keep hearing about football players with CTE. What about people who’ve never played sports. Have their brains been examined?

    People who’ve never played contact sports kill themselves. People who’ve never played contact sports get dementia/alzheimer’s.

  7. billswillnevermove says: Feb 3, 2016 9:28 AM

    One tough SOB. Loved the Snake.

  8. bears5683 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:29 AM

    That’s shocking.

  9. cajunaise says: Feb 3, 2016 9:29 AM

    The consistency is alarming.

    It also makes one think back to the post-career behavior of a lot of other players who passed years ago, and never got tested for CTE.

  10. chesswhileyouplaycheckers says: Feb 3, 2016 9:30 AM

    There’s a lot more to greatness than numbers. The Snake belongs in the HOF

  11. tomtravis76 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:31 AM

    The young men I coach in youth basketball, last night brought up questions about CTE and the general feeling was they said playing football is not worth the risk of having a damaged brain when they are adults. There are plenty of sports that they can still compete.
    As parents you want to support kids even if they want to decide to play football, but now the kids are deciding on their own that their long term health is much more important. The NFL has a real issue on their plate.

  12. maalea says: Feb 3, 2016 9:33 AM

    Rest in Peace, Snake This is the year, that you get the reward you deserved for at least a decade

  13. silvernblacksabbath says: Feb 3, 2016 9:46 AM

    CTE causes colon cancer???? What does this have to do with CTE????

  14. mrjdon says: Feb 3, 2016 9:49 AM

    Remember when Roger Goodell testified before congress denying that football causes permanent brain injury?

    Shame!

    RIEP Ken Stabler,

  15. FinFan68 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:49 AM

    Test some people who never played football otherwise the link to football is hypothetical.

  16. NoWearMan says: Feb 3, 2016 9:50 AM

    So….CTE causes colon cancer now??

  17. dutchman1350 says: Feb 3, 2016 9:53 AM

    Have they studied the brains of construction workers, bankers, or dentists. While I believe CTE is real, are thye testing regular occupation people, or just football players?

  18. toolkien says: Feb 3, 2016 9:54 AM

    OK, so EVERY NFL player ever had/has CTE. In that case, what rates do these players have for suicide or forgetfulness MORE than the average person? How about suicides compared to other “entertainment” professions, where plenty of people struggled for success, perhaps got a taste, and then the phone stopped ringing, and then took the easy way out? How much more dangerous, OVERALL, is playing in the NFL, with its physical alterations to the overall body, compare to the longevity of fishermen? In short, getting ones head banged continuously causes changes. Guys lifting heavy weights, even WITHOUT juice, enlarges hearts. Playing football, and preparing to play football, changes the body. Live with it or do something else.

  19. 1heatedtoombrayduh says: Feb 3, 2016 9:55 AM

    As long as he enjoyed his life, on and off the field, he had no regrets

  20. hanspard says: Feb 3, 2016 10:04 AM

    The football players of that era will have CTE the same way all the baseball players of the 90s used steroids. Sadly, it was the cost of playing in that era cause we either didn’t know or didn’t care to look into it.

  21. therealraider says: Feb 3, 2016 10:04 AM

    90 of the 94 former football players Boston University has ever tested have had some degree of CTE, that number is so high, it’s starting to make me wonder what the CTE rate is in everyday normal society, what is the CTE rate of former soldiers?, what’s the CTE rate of former Race Car drivers? There is a lot we don’t know about CTE, but we’re learning that almost everybody has it, and probably not just football players.

  22. bigredgoog says: Feb 3, 2016 10:20 AM

    What a surprise, researchers concluding that their research is yielding results.

    So tired of selective releases of information accompanied with statements like “90% of football player’s brains examined showed extreme CTE, mild CTE or other irregularities”. Such catch all statements have no meaning.

    Science by press release is about lawsuits and attracting research dollars. The truth is secondary, whatever it may be.

  23. joetoronto says: Feb 3, 2016 10:22 AM

    Snake really did leave it all on the field, players like him are a thing of the past.

    I can’t help but wonder about players like Dick Butkus and Troy Aikman though, how come they’re still so sharp?

  24. johngaltx says: Feb 3, 2016 10:23 AM

    As soon as researchers discover a blood test for CTE, Pro Sports as we now know it, will soon end.

  25. listenupcupcake says: Feb 3, 2016 10:32 AM

    Stabler wouldn’t have changed the way he played on the field, or lived off the field, a lick, had he known about CTE. For him, and for many others, it’s a trade-off willingly accepted.

    The whole CTE phenomenon is seriously overblown. CTE increasingly seems to be just another scare-mongering, misleading label, used to incite panic and undue risk-aversion and concern about things that happen to human beings in the normal course of life, so that other people (lawyers, academics, nanny-minded NGOs, and eventually government) can make a buck.

    People in every walk of life in every society get hurt, and even killed, doing what they do everyday. That’s life. It ain’t perfect. It’s actually better now, other than the negative cultural drift of which the CTE scare is but a small part, than it has EVER been. Deal.

    Kudos to the Snake for living his life the way he wanted.
    He had that liberty, not nearly as available as it should be, and once was, in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

  26. therealraider says: Feb 3, 2016 10:35 AM

    This isn’t solely an NFL issue, I played youth and high school ball, i got my bell rung a few times, looking back, my coaches were amatuers, often their kids were the QB or the RB, the technique taught was shoddy at best, none of my coaches from pop Warner through Varsity had a degree in Physical Education, our Varsity coach was also my math teacher, I’m willing to bet I would have been well on my way to CTE before I eve. Got to the NFL, and only then would I finally be taught proper techniques.

  27. izzysydbas says: Feb 3, 2016 10:44 AM

    It looks like CTE is becoming like global warming: a political agenda blamed for everything and anyone doubting it will be labeled as idiots. Let’s hope the cause, and cure, for CTE is found but experience and logic say that in the years to come much of what is being said about it now turns out not to be true.

  28. 66ray66 says: Feb 3, 2016 10:44 AM

    Keep in mind that very little of the general population gets autopsied at death. If a person dies of natural causes – old age, heart attack, stroke, cancer, alzheimer’s, ALS, MD, etc. – there typically is no autopsy. If a person dies in an undetermined cause – car accident, murder, found dead, etc. – there is likely an autopsy. What percentage of the people who were not autopsied had CTE – we will never know. While a high percentage of former football players are showing to have CTE at autopsy, the number is just that – a number – with no way to statistically compare it to the general population. This is not to diminish the fact that these people were determined to have CTE – it just doesn’t provide a comparison to the general population.

  29. In Teddy We Trust says: Feb 3, 2016 10:47 AM

    I agree with those who are saying we need a control group of non-football players to determine the extent to which football is “causing” CTE. It also seems to me that the deceased players who have been tested have volunteered to donate their brains because there seemed to be something wrong. We need a random sample of all football players to determine the true rate of CTE among football players.

  30. JSpicoli says: Feb 3, 2016 10:55 AM

    Why everyone ask surprised that there are repercussions for violent collisions is beyond me. You’re all heroes, is that what you want to hear?

    Face it by today standards football is a flawed game that never would’ve been invented post 1970. It’s all lawyers nerds and moms making the policy now.

  31. JSpicoli says: Feb 3, 2016 10:55 AM

    “And do the right thing, put The Snake in the hall ”

    —Atkinson 43

  32. olskool711 says: Feb 3, 2016 11:06 AM

    Stabler was a winner.

  33. billswillnevermove says: Feb 3, 2016 11:11 AM

    joetoronto says:Feb 3, 2016 10:22 AM

    Snake really did leave it all on the field, players like him are a thing of the past.

    I can’t help but wonder about players like Dick Butkus and Troy Aikman though, how come they’re still so sharp?
    _________________________________
    I’m almost very sure in the future, Aikman will show signs, that dude took a beating early in his career. He had many, many concussions.

  34. pixelito says: Feb 3, 2016 11:19 AM

    So if a player develops dementia after years of getting hit in the head repeatedly by 250+ lb players running at them full speed it’s all just a conspiracy by science?

    Ok, got it….

  35. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Feb 3, 2016 11:31 AM

    Stabler must be enshrined.

  36. mmack66 says: Feb 3, 2016 11:33 AM

    hanspard says:
    Feb 3, 2016 10:04 AM

    The football players of that era will have CTE the same way all the baseball players of the 90s used steroids. Sadly, it was the cost of playing in that era cause we either didn’t know or didn’t care to look into it.
    ————————

    That era? If CTE is caused by repeated head trauma, it is still happening.

  37. araidersfan says: Feb 3, 2016 11:41 AM

    Snake was drafted in 1968 and retired after the 1984 season but he only had 11 years as a starting QB (’73 to ’83) and the Raiders excellent o-line in the 70s gave him great protection. So I don’t think that physical abuse on the field had a lot to do with the fact that he died at much too young an age.

    On the other hand Stabler was a very heavy drinker for most of his life and there’s a correlation between that and liver & colon cancers. Perhaps also with CTE, although I’m in the medical field so I’m not sure. Bobby Layne was also a heavy drinker and he had severe intestinal bleeding before he passed away. Layne died of a heart attack but my guess is that he also had colon cancer too (intestinal bleeding is a prime symptom).

    And speaking of Bobby Layne, I think that aside from their drinking/partying Layne and Stabler were comparable QBs. Layne got into the HOF while he was still alive and Snake shoud’ve been inducted during his lifetime as well but petty politics among the voters prevented that.

  38. thedom2424 says: Feb 3, 2016 11:44 AM

    Are we testing the brains of soccer players and baseball catchers and boxers and skiers/snowboarders, etc.? This can’t just be a football thing, especially with the prevalence of the players reportedly having it.

  39. peytonwantsaflag says: Feb 3, 2016 12:24 PM

    “Face it by today standards football is a flawed game that never would’ve been invented post 1970. It’s all lawyers nerds and moms making the policy now.”

    ————————————-

    um -professional MMA started much later than 1970

  40. footballluv says: Feb 3, 2016 12:38 PM

    A couple of clarifications on CTE

    -who has been tested. war vets involved in brain injury from explosive blast have also been tested. they also have CTE

    CTE is recognized when there are specific protein deposits found in the brain. in other words its based on observable evidence

    when the initial CTE studies where done there was a CONTROL group. i.e. brains of those who had significant repeative brain trauma where compared w/those who apparently had no hx of trauma.

    the data is pretty clear.

  41. dalvar1001 says: Feb 3, 2016 12:49 PM

    There is no comparison to Ken Stabler or Joe Montana and the QB’s of today like Manning and Brady. It truly was mans game and the QB with all the accolades had to stand up to the punishment to be successful. Not so much today…

  42. senatorblutarsky says: Feb 3, 2016 12:52 PM

    “The very severity of the disease, at least that we’re seeing in American football players, seems to correlate with the duration of play,” McKee said. “The longer they play, the more severe we see it. But it’s also the years since retirement, to the age of death — not only the longer you play, but the longer you live after you stop playing.”
    ______________________

    The verbage above makes me wonder. If CTE worsens over time, why? I can understand how years of prizefighters punches can be a causal factor. And also that continual helmet to helmet blows on a football field can as well. But after leaving the ring or football field why would it worsen over time without the athlete being exposed to the cause? Is it possible that everyone develops CTE and its just accelerated with those that experience numerous blows to the head? Studies concerning this would be interesting.

  43. weepingjebus says: Feb 3, 2016 1:07 PM

    Ask any real cop or fireman and they’ll tell you part of the reason they do the job is because it is dangerous. Even though it sometimes kills them, it gives them incredible gifts. You do not get one without the other. Such is life.

  44. shlort says: Feb 3, 2016 1:16 PM

    I wonder how many people who did not play football end up with CTE. Is this brain damage limited to only football players? Or do other people end up with CTE? I have never seen any study done on non football players. A lot of people get concussions.

  45. senatorblutarsky says: Feb 3, 2016 1:27 PM

    araidersfan says:
    Feb 3, 2016 11:41 AM


    And speaking of Bobby Layne, I think that aside from their drinking/partying Layne and Stabler were comparable QBs. Layne got into the HOF while he was still alive and Snake shoud’ve been inducted during his lifetime as well but petty politics among the voters prevented that.
    __________________

    Voters still resent Al Davis and unfortunately Snake is bearing the brunt of that resentment.

  46. jjackwagon says: Feb 3, 2016 1:31 PM

    Without a control group you don’t have research, you have a medical observation.

    The Snake deserves to be in the HOF.

  47. ravforlife says: Feb 3, 2016 1:32 PM

    RIP, Snake

  48. sammievee says: Feb 3, 2016 1:46 PM

    “…which is consistent with a player who spent many years playing football and then lived for decades after retiring.”

    What does this even mean? Is the other scenario compared here a player that spent many years of playing football than died within decades of his retiring?

  49. rcali says: Feb 3, 2016 3:18 PM

    Okay, let’s go with this. What problems would Stabler had if he worked in a coal mine?

  50. njraiderfan19 says: Feb 3, 2016 4:51 PM

    Snake is the reason I’m both a football fan and part of why I’m a lifelong Raiders fan. Does he belong in the Hall? His numbers are borderline. Was he great? Absolutely! My dad used to laugh about how much better he was in the second half, after he had sobered up. About how many ex-Miss Alabamas he dated. About how he caused the ulcer that made Madden give up coaching. But there will never be any doubt about his competitive nature, his love for the game or the ice water that mingled with the booze in his blood. A clutch player who not only refused to lose, but created some of today’s rules (grasp and control, being one) due to his ‘never say die’ spirit. Ever wonder why Madden had a massive man-crush on Favre? Because he played with the same abandon as Stabler. Had Snake been able to control his private life the way he could drag a team back from behind to seal a win, he’d be in Canton already. It would be interesting to see how many of his too-many INT’s came early in the game; you know- before he threw up the previous night’s revels at halftime to clear his head.

    God love him, he was one-of-a kind. Watching him play in my youth was a joy and brings back great memories. Football as a sport would not be the same without his career, but I would have a hard time voting him into the Hall.

  51. mrthumbs says: Feb 3, 2016 9:34 PM

    Joetoronto well written but how did George Burns live so long smoking all those cigars. Genetics rule all.

  52. raiderapologist says: Feb 3, 2016 10:30 PM

    Stabler could have died from alcohol poisoning or a social disease. Cancer got him before his brain failed. Everyone dies from something. Move on. Put his dead ass in the HOF. He should be there.

  53. gofor2with3pointlead says: Feb 4, 2016 9:57 AM

    Stabler should already be in or they should shut the doors on the Hall. I hope many of the commentors will consider donating their cadavers to science as I believe it’s fairly obvious they are demonstrating signs of CTE.

  54. annapterp says: Feb 4, 2016 12:00 PM

    Why would anyone be surprised by this. As long as football exists there will be repetitive hits to the head in one form or another. This really isn’t news at all. If you want to ban the sport, then ban the sport but stop telling us what everyone already knows.

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