Brandi Chastain to donate her brain for CTE research

With Brain Awareness Week coming up from the 16th of March to the 22nd, it provides a great chance to shed light on CTE - also known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The recent motion picture ‘Concussion’, starring Will Smith, is a great starting point to understanding this problem that has been plaguing the world of the NFL for years. However, recent research shows that it is not solely the major impacts associated with sports such as American Football and rugby that contribute to CTE. The evidence suggests that even players of less 'physical' sports risk getting affected by it, too.

In an effort to find out more about CTE, particularly in women, it was announced yesterday that American soccer legend Brandi Chastain would be donating her brain to Boston University for research into the disease after her death.

Chastain, 47, suffered two particularly damaging head injuries in her career as a result of colliding with other players on the pitch. In both instances, she continued playing on after the incident. Experts say that even something as minor as heading the ball can be damaging to the brain.

CTE is degenerative, and causes symptoms such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgement
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidality
  • Parkinsonism

Chastain was quoted saying “I hope my experience in soccer and what I am able to give back helps put soccer in a better place than it was when I started.”.

What is known about the disease at this stage is that it is caused by repeated hits to the head, which causes a build-up of an abnormal protein called ‘tau’ in the brain. However, it is unknown to what extent the trauma needs to be to develop it, as there are many players who have taken years of hits and showed no symptoms. This makes it particularly difficult to detect, as the degenerative disease can only be diagnosed after death.

This is a brave move from the FIFA Women’s World Cup winner, and will hopefully provide the insight into chronic traumatic encephalopathy that is much needed.

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