(Calgary) – The Concussion Legacy Foundation announced today that Canadian ice hockey legend and six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser has pledged to donate her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) to support research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and concussions. The announcement was made in partnership with Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada, which operates prevention, education and awareness events across the country.
“As I transition to being an ambassador for hockey in my retirement, I am determined to leave hockey better and safer,” said Wickenheiser, who is currently in PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics as a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission. “Steve Montador was a friend, and when he was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2015, I became inspired to do my part to fight this disease. By pledging my brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, I hope to support the best science and accelerate the development of ways to prevent and treat CTE.”
“Female brains respond is differently to trauma in ways we are only beginning to understand, partially because only three percent of the nearly 500 brains donated to our brain bank have been female,” said Chris Nowinski, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “We are honored by Hayley Wickenheiser’s pledge, and hope it leads to more female athletes signing up to pledge, as well as more families thinking about brain donation if they unfortunately lose a loved one.”
Wickenheiser’s brain pledge helped kick off Brain Pledge Month, part of the Foundation’s My Legacy campaign to encourage athletes to make a lasting contribution to concussion and CTE research. She joins U.S. Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor and former American hockey player and four-time Olympian Angela Ruggiero, each of whom also pledged their brains to the Foundation this week.
More than 2,800 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation since 2008, including more than 550 women, roughly half of all non-football pledges. Other prominent female athletes that have pledged include U.S. soccer legend Brandi Chastain, former USA Hockey Women’s Player of the Year AJ Griswold, and three-time Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar. Individuals with sports or military backgrounds of any kind are encouraged to pledge their brain to research at ConcussionFoundation.org/pledge.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation is the outreach and recruiting arm of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a partnership with Boston University and the US Department of Veterans Affairs and led by Dr. Ann McKee. The Brain Bank is now the world’s largest CTE brain bank with subspecialties in concussion, ALS, and other consequences of brain trauma. Nearly 500 brains have been donated, resulting in over 285 CTE diagnoses, including five former NHL players. In 2017, the Brain Bank announced the first four CTE diagnoses among male junior ice hockey players, all of whom died before the age of 30.
Everyone who pledges their brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation receives a personalized brain donor card and an informational packet about the brain donation process. Those who pledge are encouraged to spread the word to friends, family and former teammates about the importance of brain trauma research, and to share why they pledged using #MyLegacyPledge.
About Hayley Wickenheiser:
Hayley Wickenheiser is one of the best female hockey players in the world. As a decorated Olympian, she has led her team to four gold and one silver medal as well as being named the tournament’s most valuable player in both 2002 and 2006. For the 2014 Sochi Olympics Wickenheiser was selected to be the flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic team in the Opening Ceremonies. Wickenheiser was a member of the Canadian Women’s National Team starting in 1994 at the age of 15, through January of 2017 when she announced her retirement.