Soccer Star Brandi Chastain to Donate Brain to CTE Research

PHOTO: Womens World Cup soccer champion Brandi Chastain visits the SiriusXM Studios on June 3, 2014 in New York. Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Women's World Cup soccer champion Brandi Chastain visits the SiriusXM Studios on June 3, 2014 in New York.

U.S. Women's Soccer star Brandi Chastain has announced she will donate her brain to researchers studying chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, to protect future players, according to statement from the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

Chastain made headlines after making a penalty kick in the 1999 World Games that clinched victory for the U.S. Women's Team. She said she wants to protect athletes by taking part in the study on CTE, which aims to shed light on how the disease develops.

“With more information, the greater public can make better choices," she said in a statement released by the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which promotes the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma at-risk groups. "I won’t be witness to the results when I donate my brain, and I hope that day is a long way from today, but I’m hoping that my donation helps change things for the positive."

Chastain has already started an initiative to reduce heading for young soccer players. She has been involved in the "Safer Soccer" campaign since 2014 that aims to eliminate heading for players under the age of 14.

"Ultimately I’m thinking about the players," she said in her statement. "How do we evaluate what happened in my brain -- when I started doing things like repetitive heading -- and then take those results to improve the way we coach our young players? Can what we learn help change rules even more?"

The degenerative disease involves a buildup of the abnormal protein called tau, which is also found in Alzheimer's patients and is associated with a breakdown of brain tissue. It's believed to be caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, according to the CTE Center at Boston University, and symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety and progressive dementia. The disease can only be diagnosed after death when tissue samples can be examined for the tau protein.

Most of the attention has focused on athletes who developed the disease after contact sports like football. However, athletes who played soccer or baseball have also all been diagnosed with the disease. This week former WWE-wrestler Kevin Nash said he will also donate his brain for CTE research, according to ESPN.

"For so long, players with concussions have in many ways had to be in the dark on their own, dealing with symptoms, diminished capacity, or eventually experiencing the pain of having to step away from their sport," Chastain said. "By knowing that we’re not alone, and by working together and getting more people to follow suit, maybe in the future, we have less reason to worry about concussions."