CBS Local — Days before the 2018 Winter Olympics begin in South Korea, three female Olympians have announced that they are joining the fight to end concussions in sports by donating their brains to science.
U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, U.S. hockey player Angela Ruggiero, and six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada have all pledged to give their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) at the end of their lives.
“Women are largely unrepresented in brain donations. And concussions affect women more than men, so they need to get research out,” Elana Meyers Taylor told USA Today.
In a press release from CLF, Meyers Taylor added that a concussion almost ended her bobsledding career in 2015. “I wish I had known more about the risks of returning too quickly. I’m doing this for every athlete that will follow in my footsteps,” the two-time Olympic medal winner said.
While concussions have been a heated topic of debate in male sports — especially in the NFL where chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been found in nearly every former player — the issue has reportedly been overlooked at the Olympics and in women. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that can cause headaches, memory loss, erratic behavior, and increased suicidal thoughts.
“As a woman, I know a lot of studies skew towards male subjects, so it’s important to have more female brains to study,” Angela Ruggiero said in the CLF release.
“Head trauma is not part of the discussion in Olympic sports yet. It’s barely part of the global discussion,” CLF’s co-founder Chris Nowinski told reporters. “This is a great way to start the conversation in countries where it has yet to begin.”
According to CLF, nearly 3,000 athletes and military veterans have pledged their brains to the study of concussions since 2008. The three Olympians are part of the 560 female brain pledges made in the time; which are half of the non-football donations CLF has received.