As the U.S. women’s soccer team was playing their way into the championship match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, two former female soccer stars were raising awareness about a devastating brain disease.
Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers are spreading the word about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition that has been linked to football players who endured repeated blows to the head and suffer from a host of symptoms—memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, even suicidal thoughts. The two women, both World Cup champions in the 1990s, are part of a groundbreaking research effort to study the brains of former soccer players.
To find out, the women have teamed up with researchers investigating CTE at The Stern Lab at Boston University School of Medicine. Chastain and Akers are two of twenty women, ages 40 and over, who played on the women’s national or Olympic soccer teams who are participating in the study. They’ll undergo brain imaging and neurocognitive testing.
Concussions, even ones that don’t make you pass out or that go undiagnosed, and repeated head trauma can damage the brain and cause serious consequences. Brain SPECT imaging studies have shown that in football players, repeated head trauma is associated with lower overall blood flow in the brain. Concussions and traumatic brain injuries increase the risk of mental health/brain health disorders, including ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictions, memory problems, psychosis, and sadly, even suicide. They also raise the risk of incarceration.
The good news is that if you have experienced concussions or TBI, there is help. You are not stuck with the brain you have. Many therapies—including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, neurofeedback, nutraceuticals, and simple lifestyle changes—are available that can help heal the brain and minimize symptoms associated with head trauma.
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