Concussion Legacy Foundation pledges $100,000 to Boston University for first-ever study on long-term effects of head impacts in women’s soccer

Friday, June 28, 2019

Soccer icon Michelle Akers sits down with CBS to discuss her participation in the SHINE study

CLF teaming up with icons Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain to recruit players from the 1990s US Women’s National Teams to investigate brain health and CTE

(BOSTON) – The Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) is committing $100,000 to help fund the first-ever study on the long-term effects of brain trauma in women’s sports, and will be recruiting for the study pro bono. The SHINE (Soccer, Head Impacts and Neurological Effects) Study, which is primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging, is led by Dr. Robert Stern and Dr. Jesse Mez at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease and CTE Centers.

The study of the long-term effects of sports-related head impacts in females has long been neglected by the medical community, despite the soaring rate of women participating in contact sports since the passage of Title IX in 1972. CLF is committed to shining a spotlight on female athletes, and has worked for the past decade to recruit sports icons to pledge to donate their brains. Legends like Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, Angela Ruggiero, AJ Mlezcko, Hayley Wickenheiser and Elana Meyers Taylor have answered the call, creating national awareness of the need for female brain donation.

However, despite females now comprising 50 percent of the CLF Brain Donation Registry (excluding football players), fewer than 20 of the more than 700 brains donated to the VA-Boston University-CLF Brain Bank have come from females.

As a new strategy to accelerate research of living female athletes, CLF is teaming up with US Soccer icons Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain to recruit members of the legendary 1990s US Women’s National Teams to evaluate their brain health as they age into their 50s.

“We can’t ignore this anymore,” Chastain told CBS News. “It’s not something we can just say, ‘okay, tough it out.’ It’s not that.”

Studies have shown that female soccer players are diagnosed with twice as many concussions as males, leading CLF and scientists to be concerned that head impacts may cause worse outcomes in females. Several female soccer players have reached out to CLF to share their post-concussion syndrome struggles, all of which are featured on the impacted lives section of the CLF website.

“The Boston University team has designed a landmark study,” said CLF medical director Dr. Robert Cantu. “CLF is proud to play our part in ensuring the study can begin this year and answer the question of whether female athletes are more affected by repeated head impacts.”

SHINE Study participants must be age 40 or older and have played a minimum of five years of organized soccer, with at least two of those years occurring after high school, with at least one year at the professional level, or on a national or Olympic team. Participants will spend two days in Boston for a variety of neurological tests. For more information about the SHINE study, contact Alyssa Phelps at phelps@bu.edu.

Women of all ages are encouraged to sign up for the CLF Research Registry to be invited to future research studies by clicking here.

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