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Former soccer star hopes to aid research on female brain injury

There's been a lot of media attention in recent years given to the long-term effects of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries on football players of all ages. Less attention has been paid to athletes involved in soccer -- another sport where head injuries are common -- and still less on female soccer players.

Former World Cup-winning soccer player Brandi Chastain hopes to help change that by donating her brain for study after her death. Chastain is using her international fame as part of the U.S. women's soccer team that took home the coveted trophy in 1999 to call attention to the concussion risks for female athletes.

Chastain, who often headed the ball, also wants to call attention to the debate over whether young soccer players should be allowed to use that move. She notes that young children may not realize that they've suffered a concussion and therefore aren't as likely to report an injury as older players.

Chastain is donating her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation so that researchers can study it for signs of trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE has been diagnosed in the brains of a number of deceased professional football players.

Few women's brains have been donated for research. Therefore, little is known about whether concussions and other brain injuries affect female brains differently than men's. Chastain hopes that this donation can be part of her legacy to the game and other athletes of all ages.

Interestingly, even though female athletes are less likely to participate in football, some sports that are popular among girls and young woman, including soccer and hockey, can result in concussions. Females actually have a higher concussion rate than males.

There are several possible reasons. Males have stronger neck muscles than females, which can affect how the head comes into contact with an object. It's also been hypothesized that testosterone may help protect the male brain. Finally, since women are less likely to have a post-college athletic career, they may be apt to self-report signs of TBI.

The signs of brain injury often aren't apparent immediately after an injury or accident. Sometimes the full extent of brain damage isn't obvious for years. That's why it's essential that if you or a loved one have suffered a head injury, you have it checked out. This can factor into how much compensation you may be entitled to in an Ontario court case.

Source: ESPN W, "Brandi Chastain Pledges To Donate Brain To Concussion Research," Jane McManus, March 03, 2016

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