CloseAlyssa Roenigk is a senior author for ESPN The Journal and ESPN.com whose assignments have taken her to 6 continents and induced her to commit numerous acts of recklessness. (Observe @ESPN_Alyssa on Twitter).
Ten former elite girls’s soccer gamers, together with USWNT icons Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain, have signed on to participate in a first-of-its sort examine on the long-term results of head impacts in high-level girls’s soccer.
Akers, who suffers from continual migraines, and Chastain, who in 2016 turned one of many first skilled girls athletes to donate her mind to Boston College’s Concussion Legacy Basis for examine upon her demise, appeared on “CBS Good Morning” on Thursday to announce their involvement within the landmark examine, which is able to start later this 12 months at Boston College.
“That is the primary time they’re feminine soccer gamers, feminine brains and it is vital to have this dialog,” Akers instructed ESPN.com by cellphone Friday morning. “This must be checked out equally for ladies and men, and till now, it hasn’t been.”
Dubbed SHINE, for Soccer, Head Impacts and Neurological Results, the examine will have a look at former gamers over 40 who performed a minimal of 5 years of organized soccer, with at the very least two of these years coming after highschool and at the very least one 12 months on the professional stage or on a nationwide or Olympic group. It will likely be led by Boston College professor of neurology Dr. Robert Stern, scientific analysis director for BU’s Persistent Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) middle, and be funded by the Concussion Legacy Basis and the Nationwide Institute on Growing old. However the examine was spearheaded by Akers, a member of the 1991 and 1999 Ladies’s World Cup championship groups and one among solely two girls to attain 5 targets in a single World Cup match.
Two years in the past, Akers stated that regardless of her migraines and reminiscence lapses, she’d by no means made a connection between heading “round 50 balls a sport” and her signs, till she watched a documentary on retired English Premier League striker Alan Shearer titled, “Dementia, Soccer and Me.”
“It made sense,” Akers instructed ESPN.com. “I had by no means considered CTE within the soccer world. I knew what was stated about NFL gamers, however after I noticed that documentary, I noticed the connection to soccer. I assumed, what are we doing about it? What is going on on all over the world? I figured if this was occurring to English skilled gamers, then FIFA have to be doing research. There have to be research occurring within the U.S. However after I began wanting round, I discovered nothing.”
Akers stated her persistent analysis ultimately led her to Dr. Stern at Boston College and Chris Nowinski on the Concussion Legacy Basis. “We obtained on a name collectively and Dr. Stern stated, ‘We have to do a examine on feminine soccer gamers,'” Akers stated. “So, we set this entire factor in movement.”
At first of the World Cup, Akers stated she reached out to about 20 former teammates, and as of Friday, 10 gamers had signed on to take part within the examine, together with Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT midfielder and Portland Thorns head coach. “The response has been extraordinarily constructive,” Akers stated. “Because the CBS interview ran yesterday, I’ve had a pair high-profile gamers attain out and ask, ‘How do I join?’ I’ve had individuals attain out saying they’ve had concussions, that they are involved for themselves and are so glad the analysis is occurring. They see this examine as progress in equality for ladies.”
Akers stated that whereas she is unsure if her migraines are the results of her enjoying profession, getting older or her genetics, she believes what’s most vital is to have an open dialog and start to do the analysis that can present athletes like herself with solutions.
“It is a subjective expertise, so it is tough to find out if [the headaches and memory lapses] are Michelle being an airhead or overwhelmed and drained, or is that this a post-concussion factor or CTE?,” stated Akers, who not too long ago joined Chastain in donating her mind posthumously to the Concussion Legacy Basis. “That is what we’re exploring and why we need to present assist for others. I want I knew this info after I was youthful. I headed the ball a lot. I practiced heading the ball. Had I recognized, I by no means would have achieved that. Heading the ball is dangerous. It does harm to your mind. Ought to we take heading out of soccer? I do not know. That is why we want analysis.”
Akers stated that whereas she is going to cheer on the U.S. girls as they tackle France Friday evening from the consolation of her personal sofa, she admits that she watches video games in a different way now.
“The Shearer documentary modified how I watch soccer,” Akers stated. “I watch Carli Lloyd rating on some stunning header and I believe, ‘That was a fantastic aim.’ Then my thoughts wanders down a unique highway and I believe, however what’s the danger?”