United States Women’s Soccer icon, Brandi Chastain, announced on March 3, 2016, that she will donate her brain for concussion research. Specifically, her brain will help researchers further analyze the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Chastain is encouraged that this research will protect future soccer players from developing the brain disease.
The brain disease develops after the abnormal protein, tau, formulates in the brain and is associated with brain tissue breakdown. Tau is known for developing in patients that suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Certain symptoms include progressive dementia, confusion, memory loss, impulse control problems, anxiety, and depression. Chastain agreed to have her brain donated to the CTE Center at Boston University in Boston, Mass. The university has been a known advocate for the study of CTE and other concussion-related brain effects.
CTE is most commonly diagnosed from repetitive blows to the head. It is a common disease in athletes, but specifically, those who partake in contact sports, such as football and boxing. It is also common in soccer players, but mostly in males. Some researchers have connected the disease with those that repeatedly “head the ball,” a motion that consists of using one’s head to pass the ball or attempt a goal. A study from 2013 concluded that a soccer player may head the ball up to 12 times per game. Typically, the ball travels an average of 50 miles per hour. The study also suggested that players that have headed the ball multiple times in a game suffer from symptoms similar to those from concussions.
Boston University and their researchers conducted a CTE study that examined 307 brains. While most of those brains came from athletes, only seven came from women. There have been no reports of CTE found in female athletes to date, although, there have been cases of brain disease found in women with injuries that correlated with head trauma.
CTE can only be diagnosed after death, as researchers search for the development of tau buildup. Chastain will donate her brain for concussion research. She appeared in the 1999 World Cup against China. She scored the winning shootout goal and is known for the iconic photo of her falling to her knees and screaming with excitement after the goal was made. Chastain now lives in San Jose, Calif., where she is raising her 9-year-old son with her husband, Jerry Smith. Chastain coaches her son’s soccer team, frequently helps the varsity soccer team at Bellarmine High School and assists her husband, who is the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Santa Clara University.
She lives in San Jose, Calif., with her husband, Jerry Smith, and their 9-year-old son. Chastain coaches her son’s soccer team, frequently helps the varsity soccer team at Bellarmine High School and assists her husband, who is the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Santa Clara University.
Chastain is a supporter of the Safer Soccer campaign. Safer Soccer has emphasized eliminating youth soccer players under the age of 14 from heading the ball. According to NBC Sports, The United States Soccer Association announced in November 2015, “Per the new protocol, children 10 and under will be barred from heading the ball during any official session, practice or game, while players ages 11 to 13 will have heading limited during training sessions.”
In 2015, another study was conducted that concluded approximately a third of concussions were caused due to heading the soccer ball. This study was tested on youth soccer players, but also concluded that female players have a higher risk of obtaining concussions. This study also found that female athletes are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from a concussion.
Chastain hopes that donating her brain to concussion research will provide further information for CTE and other concussion-related diseases. Chastain has played soccer for over 40 years and left a legacy when she scored the winning penalty kick that led the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to win the National Cup. She is hoping that the study on her brain will leave another type of legacy and will further allow researchers to prevent CTE from developing in athletes in the future.
By Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Cathy Milne
ABC News: Soccer Star Brandi Chastain to Donate Brain to CTE Research
CNN: Soccer icon Brandi Chastain to donate brain for CTE research
ESPN: Brandi Chastain Donates Brain To Concussion Research
New York Times: Brandi Chastain to Donate her Brain for C.T.E. Research
NBC Sports: No more heading: US Soccer unveils new concussion protocol for youth soccer
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