USWNT stars Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe are donating their brains to concussion research.
Retired forward Wambach and current midfielder Rapinoe spoke with The Lantern about their decision to contribute.
“I think there will be valuable research and information that will be studied, and we will understand more about the heading and the heading process as it pertains to the game,” Wambach told The Lantern.
Concussions and frequent blows to the head are possibly connected to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a postmortem degenerative brain disease. According to The Lantern, the disease is typically found in boxers and football players, but soccer players who repeatedly head the ball have been found to have similar brain abnormalities.
Wambach wants to promote safe methods of heading the ball for children to prevent further damage.
“We want to make sure that when those 10-year-olds get to that 11-year-old age, the 11- to (13-year-olds) get to the next level, we want to make sure those kids are prepared,” she said. “You don’t want to send somebody out and not know how to do it, how to properly head a ball. I think that actually makes it more dangerous,” Wambach says.
Although soccer isn’t known for being as physically taxing as boxing or football, it’s precisely why Wambach believes research in the sport is so important.
“We’re different from the NFL,” she said. “Heading a ball is different than getting struck in the head by a linebacker that’s 300 pounds trying to literally rip your head off, so I’m excited to see what those results are.”
Fellow athletes Brandi Chastain and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will also donate their brains to CTE research after their deaths.