NEW ORLEANS -- Researchers determined former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Former New Orleans Saints players reacted to the news that the late, legendary NFL quarterback had a severe degenerative brain disease.
"A lot of people work very hard in their lives to be cool. Some people are just born with it, and Kenny was just one of the coolest guys I've ever been around," said former Saints player Rich Mauti.
Stabler left his brain to doctors in hopes of uncovering why, only in his late 60s, he showed signs of dementia and could not take bright lights and noises.
Doctors at Boston University who studyed many former football players said Stabler had high stage 3 CTE, a degenerative brain disease that is thought to come from repeated knocks to the head. The scale is ranked from one to four.
As a former Saints teammate of Stabler's, Mauti said he is not surprised of this new diagnosis.
"It's disappointing and discouraging to hear those things and to know that some of the players that you played with are suffering through those things," Mauti said.
Many think quarterbacks don't have to worry as much about brain injuries since they don't take as many hits as lineman.
Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert knows the real game.
"I look over 15 years, I had 11 concussions, three of them, I was basically knocked out," Hebert said.
The head of LSUHSC Hyperbaric Medicine, Dr. Paul Harch is conducting a study for people who have symptoms from traumatic brain injuries like Stabler.
"With every concussion, we loose some of our reserve capacity," Dr. Harch said.
Harch said it's because the injury can be in the front part of the brain when it crashes into the boney area of the skull which is something helmets cannot protect.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is the subject of the movie 'Concussion,' said CTE symptoms may include mood disorder, severe depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, diminishing intelligence, impaired judgment and dementia.
Stabler's family reported he had many of these symptoms before he died of colon cancer in July.
"Those areas control impulse and thinking and emotion, mood, aggression, behavior," Dr. Harch explained.
Hebert said it is scary and he thinks players and the NFL are realizing it.
"They [NFL] have to give back to the players that helped lay the foundation for the great game that the NFL is today," Hebert said. Hebert believes we will see more of these types of stories.
Mauti said he was sorry Stabler had to suffer through some of his latter years. Mauti also said athletes today are bigger, faster, stronger, and hit with greater impact.
"Hopefully we can do some things that can correct some of those things so the current guys don't have to deal with that," Mauti said.
The brain injury study at LSU Health Sciences Center is open to adults, including veterans, from anywhere in the U.S.
To see if you qualify for the free treatments, call 504-427-5632 or go to www.hbottbistudy.org.