Chastain to Donate Brain to Concussion Research Brain: Concussion Research Is a Fledgling Field of Study

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

Chastain to Donate Brain to Concussion Research Brain: Concussion Research Is a Fledgling Field of Study


Byline: Rick Maese The Washington Post

Hoping to broaden the attention and research surrounding concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, particularly with regards to women, former soccer star Brandi Chastain pledged to donate her brain posthumously to researchers studying the impact wrought by repetitive head injuries.

"It's not just football that's at stake," Chastain said. "We have millions and millions of young people participating in soccer, and I'm not sure there's enough advocacy for them. I was compelled to do something."

Chastain, 47, played parts of 12 years for the U.S. national team, helping the Americans win a pair of Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles. She more recently has become an outspoken advocate for making soccer a safer sport, urging youth leagues to ban heading the ball by athletes under age 14.

Chastain's brain one day will go to the brain bank run in partnership by the

Concussion Legacy Foundation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Boston University School of Medicine.

"Everybody talks about 1999 and the legacy of that team," Chastain said. "We won a World Cup, got a lot of attention, but I really think this is another way to make a lasting change and have an impact that lives well past the time that I'm here."

Concussion research is a fledging field of study, in large part because of the huge spotlight trained on the NFL and the myriad maladies suffered by some former football players. But much of the emerging science and data have focused on men, revealing little about the impact brain trauma has on women.

"We currently know so little about how gender influences outcome after trauma," said neuropathologist Ann McKee, director of Boston University's CTE Center. "Her pledge marks an important step to expand our knowledge in this critical area."

The Concussion Legacy Foundation has acquired 307 brains, two-thirds of which came from former football players. Just four belonged to women. McKee and her colleagues have been at the forefront of CTE research, identifying nearly 200 cases of the degenerative disease, mostly in former football players. They have yet to identify CTE in a female athlete.

McKee says the absence of case studies doesn't mean women aren't susceptible; research simply doesn't exist for anyone to fully understand the impact concussions have on women.

In medical literature, researchers have identified two known cases of CTE in women, one involving domestic violence and the other a young woman with autism who repeatedly banged her head.

"There is great concern that the female brain may, in fact, be more prone to injury and adverse long-term outcome than the male brain ... but the rate of brain donation from women has been exceedingly low," McKee said.

She pointed to some studies that have shown women have a longer rate of recovery and more persistent post-concussion symptoms than men. …

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