Brandi Chastain Will Donate Her Brain To Science After She Dies: Soccer Star Wants To Help Concussion Research

Brandi Chastain, the U.S. Women’s Soccer star who propelled the American team to the championship in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, has agreed to donate her brain to science after she dies, USA Today is reporting.

Don’t worry: Brandi isn’t dying anytime soon (as far as anyone knows). She’s just making plans for the – hopefully – distant future.

Specifically, Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a group tasked with studying – and hopefully preventing – the effects of concussions in youth sports.

Throughout her soccer career, even going back to her days kicking the ball around the local parks in youth leagues as a little girl, Chastain has had her head knocked around more than a few times. Using your head to direct the ball into the goal – called a “header” in soccer – is a vital part of the sport, and Chastain has had more than a few headers in her career. She’s also conked her noggin against other players’ heads – also a part of the sport.

Chastain has officially been diagnosed with a concussion twice in her career, both times while playing for college teams. Both times, she never experienced any side effects and was back in the game right away. She also “saw stars” more than once in her 40-year career, but always “shook it off” and went right back to the pitch.

Fortunately for Brandi, 47, she doesn’t seem to be experiencing any symptoms of brain damage associated with concussions, nor has she been officially diagnosed with any brain problems – yet.

“I never had an official diagnosis of a concussion in my career, but as you grow older, you sometimes say, gosh, am I losing my memory or did I used to forget when I went into a room what I went in there for? Could this be the start of something?”

Concussions in sports, especially youth sports, have become a matter of concern among doctors and sports leagues of late. The worst offender is football – that is, the American version, not soccer (called “football” by, oh, everywhere else in the world). Debilitating health problems brought on by repeated concussions have led to dozens of former NFL players suffering dementia, depression, and even committing suicide.

Pediatricians, as well as some sports authorities, would like to get a handle on the concussion problem at the youth level. As the Inquisitr reported in November 2015, the organization that has authority over youth soccer in the U.S., the United States Soccer Federation, or U.S. Soccer, announced a set of rules aimed at preventing youth soccer players aged 10 and under from “heading” the ball, either in games or in practice, and limiting the number of heading opportunities for players aged 11 through 13.

By donating her brain to science after she dies, Chastain hopes that researchers can get further insight into the changes the brain goes through playing a sport that involves a lot of head trauma. Specifically, Brandi hopes her brain can spur insight into the effects of soccer head injuries on women and girls who play the sport.

“A question I have is, do men’s and women’s brains look and respond differently? I’m a recovering two-time ACL reconstruction athlete. Why are ACL injuries more common in girls and women than boys and men? Could that also be true with concussions? And if true, what can we do differently?”

Since her soccer career ended, Brandi Chastain, now a mother of a 10-year-old, has settled into a relatively quiet life and is married to her former college soccer coach, Jerry Smith.

[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational]