Brandi Chastain made her mark on the world of soccer when she scored the winning shootout goal in the 1999 World Cup final against China. She made her mark again at the end of that match when she celebrated by tearing off her jersey and whipping it around — similar to the way male soccer players celebrate a win. Chastain shocked the world with her rock-hard abs and pumped biceps, challenging the notion of what it means to be a female athlete.
Now, almost 20 years later, Chastain is 47 — a mom and soccer coach — and she hopes to once again make a move that will leave its mark on her beloved sport. Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and researchers at Boston University, where it will be studied to better understand concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease.
Concussions have been a hot topic in sports as of late, especially in soccer. Last fall, the U.S. soccer league issued new guidelines that banned or limited the use of headers (hitting the ball with one's head,) in practice and games depending upon an athlete's age. According to the new rules, kids 10 years old or younger will no longer be allowed to head the ball in practice or games, while players ages 11 to 13 will be allowed to work on headers during practice, but not in games.
Headers are responsible for roughly a third of all concussions reported in youth soccer, and female athletes may be at an even greater risk. New data finds that female players appear to be more susceptible to concussions than their male peers in comparable sports.
In a statement, Chastain noted that she hoped her decision to donate her brain would benefit the world of soccer, "I hope my experience in soccer and what I am able to give back helps put soccer in a better place than it was when I started."
And she told the New York Times, "You don’t ever want to look back on a kid and say that their life was adversely changed by playing sports — and soccer specifically. I don’t want that. I don’t want that for them; I don’t want that for soccer."