A former U.S. soccer star will donate her brain for concussion research.
Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick goal won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, will donate her brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a collaborative effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University School of Medicine, upon her death.
“It is really about: How I can help impact soccer beyond scoring a goal in 1999 in the World Cup final. Can I do something more to leave soccer in a better place than it was when I began this wonderful journey with this game?'' she told the Associated Press.
Scientists believe that studying the brain could shed light on diagnosing and treating brain conditions caused by impacts to the head. Repeated concussions are believed to cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain condition. CTE can only be diagnosed postmortem.
“We currently know so little about how gender influences outcome after trauma,'' said Dr. Ann McKee, director of the brain bank program in an interview with the AP. “Her pledge marks an important step to expand our knowledge in this critical area.''
She echoed those sentiments in an interview with the New York Times.
“If there’s any information to be gleaned off the study of someone like myself, who has played soccer for 40 years, it feels like my responsibility — but not in a burdensome way,” she said.
It is not known whether Chastain ever had a concussion during her soccer career, but doctors believe that headers in soccer--hitting the ball with one’s head-- are dangerous enough that the U.S. Soccer Federation has banned headers for young players.
Chastain was on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team from 1988 to 2004, and played in the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991. Currently, she coaches youth soccer in the San Francisco area.
“It's been a journey about education for me,'' she told AP. “I've been involved in sports for a long time, only up until recently, have people been talking about concussions, and then concussions specifically related to soccer. It's been mostly a football problem or a football issue. But it's not.''
Chastain says she hopes her donation will get other athletes to do the same.
According to the New York Times, “no female athletes have been found to have had C.T.E. — it has been found in the brains of women with histories of head trauma — but the sample size has been small.”