USWNT Stars Lead The Way In Concussion Research For Female Athletes

The stars are aligning for researchers trying to learn more about how head injuries affect a woman’s brain.

United States women’s national team stars Abby Wambach, 35, who recently retired, and Megan Rapinoe, 30, announced on Tuesday that they plan to donate their brains for concussion research, according to The Lantern. Wambach and Rapinoe dropped their landmark decision during a discussion on Ohio State’s campus regarding women’s rights, gay rights and Wambach’s October retirement.

Wambach, a deadly header of the ball during her playing days (she scored 67 goals with her head for the USWNT), suffered one of the most infamous concussions in women’s soccer history in April 2013. After being hit hard by a ball during a National Women’s Soccer League match, her team failed to immediately examine her condition and for 11 days didn’t admit that she was at risk for a concussion — failings that U.S. Soccer eventually apologized for.

The pair’s decision follows former USWNT World Cup-winner Brandi Chastain’s March 3 pledge to donate her brain for chronic traumatic encephalopathy research, better known as CTE, a degenerative brain condition that’s been linked to repetitive hits to the head.

While Chastain, 47, Wambach and Rapinoe won’t have their brains studied anytime soon — CTE can only be diagnosed after death — their decisions, as the most high-profile female athletes to pledge, could help inspire other women to donate their brains for concussion research.

Out of over 300 brains currently in Dr. Ann McKee’s brain bank, only seven are from women. Despite representing 50 percent of the population, no woman has ever been diagnosed with CTE — a stark indicator of the gender gap —> Read More