American soccer star Brandi Chastain recently announced that she will be donating her brain to science to benefit concussion research. Specifically, she aims to donate it to Concussion Legacy Foundation, an organization that works with brain researchers to find treatment for concussions at Boston University.
Chastain first became acquainted with the non-profit organization’s founder and former wrestler, Chris Nowinski, along with researchers Ann McKee and Robert Cantu in 2014, when they received an award from Santa Clara University’s Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE), where Chastain holds chair as a board member.
The researchers are from Boston University and lead research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease that is linked to sub-concussive trauma in both athletes and military members.
Upon hearing about their work, Chastain was inspired, and immediately went to fellow board members at ISLE. By 2014, Chastain partnered with the Concussion Legacy Foundation in order to “change the rules of soccer and take heading out of youth soccer to protect our young players.” The initiative is called Safe Soccer.
“It’s not about taking headers out of soccer forever,” Chastain said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It’s about protecting the players when they’re their most vulnerable so they can continue to play well into adulthood.”
According to data, roughly 250 million kids across the globe play soccer each year.
“There’s so many skills that our kids will learn in the game if given a chance at longevity,” she said. “I want as many kids playing soccer in their adult lives as possible.”
While Chastain was never diagnosed with a concussion, she recalls multiple instances that could have been considered minored concussions — and all of the incidents were due to heading.
Rather than injuries, Chastain is known for her 1999 World Cup victory, where she made the famous penalty kick that won the game.
“Now as a parent, coach, and ambassador of the game of soccer — even though I feel like my legacy and our 1999 Women’s World Cup victory are important — leaving soccer in a better place than when we got here would be an even more impactful legacy,” Chastain said.