Brandi Chastain is forever immortalized in a single photo, sitting on her knees in the grass, her USA jersey in one hand, her other hand balled up into a celebratory fist. Taken seconds after she scored the winning goal for Team USA in a shootout to win the 1999 World Cup, the photo led to one of the most iconic Sports Illustrated covers in history.
Now 47, Chastain is making another historic move. She recently pledged to donate her brain to Boston University so it can be used for CTE research. As you probably know, CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has achieved prominence in relation to NFL players. A degenerative brain disorder, it can develop from even a single concussion, and it has ravaged the brains of many former NFL players. Getting less press is the fact that it’s recently been found in male soccer players, presumably caused by repeated soccer balls to the head, whether purposeful (headers) or accidental.
No female player has yet been found to have CTE, but Chastain doesn’t want to take any chances.
“If there’s any information to be gleaned off the study of someone like myself, who has played soccer for 40 years, it feels like my responsibility—but not in a burdensome way,” Chastain told the New York Times. “People talk about what the ’99 group did for women’s soccer. They say, ‘Oh, you left a legacy for the next generation.’ This would be a more substantial legacy—something that could protect and save some kids, and to enhance and lift up soccer in a way that it hasn’t before. That was the impetus for saying yes. If we can learn something, we should. And I won’t need it.”