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Three former Oakland Raiders will donate brains for CTE research

By The Sports Xchange   |   March 26, 2016 at 7:35 PM
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Three former Oakland Raiders players are donating their brains to CTE research in honor of the late Kenny Stabler.

George Atkinson, George Buehler and Art Thoms told the San Jose Mercury News they have pledged their brains to the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation. The foundation's mission is to elevate the understanding of the causes of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the disease being linked to repeated blows to the head.

Stabler, who led the Raiders to their first championship in Super Bowl XI in his Hall of Fame career, died July 8 at age 69 from stage 4 colon cancer. His brain was sent to researchers in Boston and he was diagnosed with CTE by Dr. Ann McKee of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a collaboration between the Boston VA, Boston University, and the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

The former Raiders made the decision to speak out together as a show of solidarity for their fallen friend.

"When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together," the 68-year-old Thoms, a defensive tackle who played for the Raiders from 1969-76, told the Mercury News. "You want to do something. You can donate money, but even more is to donate the brain to help others in the future. I won't need it anymore once I'm gone."

Dr. McKee has found the disease in the brains of 90 of the 94 former NFL players she has examined, including Hall of Fame players Frank Gifford, Junior Seau and Mike Webster.

"I can't remember from yesterday to today half the time," said the 69-year-old Atkinson, an All-Pro safety for the Raiders from 1968-77. "I'd get in the middle of a piece and forget where I was going."

The 68-year-old Buehler, a Raiders offensive lineman from 1969-78, got tested by Boston physicians two days before Stabler died. Buehler told the newspaper the testing did not find the tau protein that is a strong indicator of CTE.

According to the New York Times this week, at least 100 diagnosed concussions were not reported by the NFL in data the league used to downplay effects of head injuries on players.

The league used the information from the data between 1996 through 2001, the Times reported, knowing it didn't include information from multiple teams. For example, zero concussions were reported by the Dallas Cowboys, including multiple documented head injuries to Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

The NFL issued a lengthy statement in response to the Times story, challenging the premise of the article and suggesting the newspaper "intentionally ignored the facts."

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