Former Oakland Raiders George Atkinson, George Buehler and Art Thoms said Friday they will donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation in honor of friend and former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler.
Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury News passed along word of the players' decision, which they hope can shed more light on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
"You want to do something," Thoms said. "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."
John Branch of the New York Times reported Stabler's brain was researched following his death last July. Researchers determined he had high Stage 3 CTE, which is believed to develop from repeated hits to the head and can only currently be diagnosed after death.
"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," Thoms told the Mercury News.
Last September, Jason M. Breslow of PBS provided the results of research into the subject from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University. They found 96 percent of NFL players studied (87 of 91) had signs of CTE.
Atkinson explained to the Mercury News that he was forced to stop working as a Raiders broadcaster because of memory loss: "I'd get in the middle of a piece and forget where I was going."
The players' announcement comes at a time when the NFL is trying to downplay an investigative report by the New York Times into the league's "flawed concussion research." The NFL responded by calling it a "sensationalized story," per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Meanwhile, Mark Maske of the Washington Post noted Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants more research before coming to the conclusion that there is a direct link between football-related head trauma and CTE.
Atkinson, Buehler and Thoms hope to help shed more light on the situation with their brain donations after seeing the impact the disease had on Stabler.