You remember Brandi Chastain, she of the jersey-removing, sports-bra-revealing episode of the late '90s, after the U.S. women's national soccer team won the World Cup in 1999. This is not, it seems, the only legacy she is interested in leaving behind. The New York Times reports Thursday that Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to science — more specifically, to the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
This is a big deal. So far, scientists have yet to find evidence of the degenerative brain disease in a female athlete's brain. But, then again, that's likely because so few female athletes have been studied. As Times writer John Branch reports:
Right now, CTE can only be diagnosed in a postmortem examination. But in life, as the disease progresses, it can lead to memory loss, depression, and dementia, as well as behavioral changes, like aggression or impulse-control problems. The scientists who are leading the research on CTE work have focused largely on football players, and so far their findings have been grim. Last fall, for instance, a report from those Boston University scientists, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs, found evidence of CTE in 96 percent of the NFL players in their study.
But new evidence is suggesting that soccer, too, may lead to the progressive degeneration of the brain. Chastain is not the first female professional soccer player to pledge to donate her brain to CTE research; her former teammate Cindy Parlow Cone has, too. Both Chastain and Cone have spent much of their post-professional-athlete lives pushing for reform in the youth game, arguing that new evidence of the long-lasting impact of concussion should lead to stricter rules about heading the ball.
Incidentally, recent retiree Abby Wambach — who has scored more goals than any player, in any nation, of either gender — is famous for literally using her head in the game, scoring 75 goals that way. Wambach, a heads-up: The Times reports that Chastain is after your brain, too.
Chastain through the years:
Brandi Chastain is going to donate her brain to science
1 Jul 1999: Brandi Chastain #6 of Team USA stands during a line-up before a Womens World Cup Soccer game against Team Germany at RFK Stadium in Washington,D.C. Team USA defeated Team Germany 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport
PASADENA, : Brandi Chastain of the US shouts after falling on her knees after she scored the last goal in a shoot-out in the finals of the Women's World Cup with China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California 10 July 1999. The US won 5-4 on penalties. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/HECTOR MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 14: Athlete Brandi Chastain attends Eighth Annual ESPY Sports Awards on February 14, 2000 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
381226 06: WUSA (Women''s United Soccer Association) player Brandi Chastain at a press conference November 2, 2000 in New York City. Chastain will be playing for the Bay Area CyberRays. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers)
25 Aug 2001: Teammates Brandi Chastain (L) and Tisha Venturini (R) kiss the trophy after winning the WUSA Championship game against the Atlanta Beat at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Cyberrays won . DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire/Allsport
25 Aug 2001: Brandi Chastain of the Bay Area Cyberrays celebrates her teams victory against the Atlanta Beat during the WUSA Championship game at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Cyberrays won . DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire/Allsport
SAN JOSE, CA -JUNE 15: Brandi Chastain #6 of the San Jose CyberRays celebrates her goal during their WUSA match against the New York Power at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California on June 15, 2002. The CyberRays won, 4-3. (Photo By Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JULY 13: Brandi Chastain of the U.S. Women's national team warms up prior to their match against the Brazil Women's national team at Tad Gormley Stadium on July 13, 2003 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The U.S. defeated Brazil 1-0. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 11: Brandi Chastain #6 and Mia Hamm #9 of USA after defeating Canada 3-1 during the 3rd place match of the FIFA Women's World Cup on October 11, 2003 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 22: U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team members Brandi Chastain and Briana Scurry appear on the field before the San Francisco Giants take on the Houston Astros at SBC Park on September 22, 2004 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Olympic Medalist Brandi Chastain attends the Women's Sports Foundation 25th annual salute to women in sports awards dinner on October 18, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Brandi Chastain during 'Her Best Move' Screening at Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco, California, United States. (Photo by Margot Duane/WireImage for Current PR)
Brandi Chastain during Press Conference to Announce the Launch of Nike Tailwind Product Line at Lotus Space in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 31: (L-R) Former soccer player Brandi Chastain, her son and softball player Jessica Mendoza attend the Nike+ Human Race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 31, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 20: Soccer Players Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm teach children about soccer and flu vaccinations at Super Soccer Stars Indoor Soccer Field on August 20, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01: Former professional soccer player Brandi Chastain addresses the press during the Capital One Division 1 College Sports Award launch at The Times Center on September 1, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Footballer Brandi Chastain plays a shot during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on February 10, 2011 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
NORTH LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: Soccor player Brandi Chastain reacts after sinking a putt during ARIA Resort & Casino's Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament at Shadow Creek on April 6, 2013 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational)
SPLASH - 'Episode 106' - For months, the celebrity divers have been training with legendary diver Greg Louganis, but this week the remaining five celebrities will partner and be coached by some of the sport's toughest critics, junior diving champions all between the ages of 10-12. Each celebrity and their junior partner will complete a synchronized dive, and the celebrities will be scored on their performance. The two celebrities with the lowest scores will compete in a dive-off to determine who will be sent home. Meanwhile, a hard landing in rehearsal leaves one celebrity with a black eye and pre-show nerves, on 'Splash,' TUESDAY, APRIL 23 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images)
DARIA LENZ, BRANDI CHASTAIN
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 03: Midfielder and Women's World Cup soccer champion Brandi Chastain visits the SiriusXM Studios on June 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Brandi Chastain arrives at the Fanatics' Big Game Weekend Event on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Trisha Leeper/FilmMagic)