Former U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain, who scored the winning penalty in the 1999 Women's World Cup final, announced Thursday she will donate her brain to science to help further the understanding of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The 47-year-old will make the donation to the Concussion Legacy Foundation at Boston University.
Degenerative brain disease is already a great concern, and a hot button issue, in the NFL and increasingly the NHL, but there is the growing belief among researchers that heading the ball in soccer can also cause brain injuries. There is a growing collection of data, but it has until this point been mostly of males. Here’s more from 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. Researchers at Boston University have examined 307 brains, most of which belonged to athletes. Only seven of them were women’s. But with soccer’s worldwide popularity and its growth among girls inspired by the likes of the United States’ women’s national team, researchers are eager to learn more. For now, C.T.E. can be reliably diagnosed only through a brain examination after death.
“Chastain isn't sure she's had concussions, but suspects she has had at least a couple. In her playing days, there wasn't the knowledge about concussions that there is today,” according to CBS News. “’I know there are two specific incidents when I was in college that today would definitely be considered a concussion,’ she said, adding that after those injuries in which she had ‘had my bell rung’ or had ‘seen stars.’”