Nick Buoniconti will donate his his brain to CTE research upon his death, the Miami Dolphins great announced Friday.
A Pro Football Hall of Famer who led the Dolphins’ No-Name Defense of 1972 Perfect Season, Buoniconti said his life has been damaged by football.
CTE, short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative neurological disease connected to concussions football players suffered in their careers.
The disease can only be confirmed by studying brain tissue after death.
“My life, as I know it, has been taken away from me,’’ Buoniconti, 76, said Friday at the Boston University School of Medicine, which has led studies on CTE.
A linebacker, Buoniconti was a major part of the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl wins in the early 1970s. He was traded from the Boston Patriots in 1969 and played for the Dolphins until retiring in 1976.
He said his recent neurological issues are not due to age but to football’s punishment.
“I don't believe there are any miracles with this disease, but I am so proud to be with VA Secretary [David] Shulkin, Dr. [Ann] McKee and the BU CTE Center and Concussion Legacy Foundation team today, who are so dedicated to fighting the ravages of concussions and thousands of head impacts,” Buoniconti said. “I hope that my story and contribution will help thousands of others who are in this journey, or who will follow me.”
McKee, who is chief of neuropathology at VA Boston Healthcare System, said the “study of postmortem human brain is the fastest way to advance our understanding of CTE. Brain donation provides unique insights into disease that accelerate our development of biomarkers to detect CTE during life, and will lead to effective strategies to treat CTE.”
Buoniconti co-founded The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after his son Marc suffered an accident in a college-football game that left him a paralyzed.
Marc said of his father in a statement: “True to his nature, he continues to try and help others even while he wages his own battle. Just as he has done for me for more than 32 years as we’ve searched for a cure for paralysis, we will all stand beside him as he searches for answers.”
Buoniconti also urged President Donald J. Trump to donate federal funds to CTE research.