Brandi Chastain, the retired American soccer player best known for her iconic celebration after scoring the game-winning penalty kick at the 1999 World Cup Finals, announced on Thursday that she will donate her brain to researchers at Boston University to study concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E), a degenerative brain disease.
“Everybody talks about 1999 and the legacy of that team,” Chastain told the Washington Post. “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.”
Head trauma and C.T.E. have been heavily discussed and debated topics in football over the past several years. In her retirement, Chastain (47) has been a big advocate of making soccer a safer sport, too. Most notably, she has publicly called for youth leagues to ban heading the ball for players under the age of 14.
C.T.E has never been diagnosed in a female athlete, but as the New York Times noted, of the 307 brains studied at Boston University, only seven were female. Furthermore, C.T.E. has been diagnosed in women with repeated head trauma.
“We currently know so little about how gender influences outcome after trauma,” neuropathologist Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center, told the Post. “[Chastain’s] pledge marks an important step to expand our knowledge in this critical area.”
Chastain has estimated that there were approximately a half-dozen times when she shook off what could have been a concussion sustained from heading a soccer ball.
“There are definitely days when I turn a corner and I’m like, ‘Why did I come into this room?'” Chastain said. “I have definitely, from time to time, thought, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if this is connected to the past 40 years of playing sports.'”
“I do wonder about the ramifications over the next 20 years when I should be fully functioning and still doing things I like or want to do. I try not to get hung up on those things, because it doesn’t really matter at this point. You just don’t know.”
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