Women's Sports: Calls for sportswomen to donate their brains to science

British sportswomen are facing calls to follow in the footsteps of Megan Rapinoe and donate their brains to science to aid research into female concussion.

Rose Reilly, a trailblazing Scottish footballer who was crowned the world’s best female footballer in 1984 is one of the first sportswomen in the UK to pledge to donate her brain after her death. 

Connie Ramsay, the Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning judoka and former rugby international Lee Cockburn have also signed a pledge. 

The campaign is the result of a partnership between the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group and US-based charity PINK Concussions encouraging women to donate their brains to the Glasgow Traumatic Brain Injury Archive so they can study the impact of brain injury. PINK Concussions’ #PINKBrainPledge will be used to raise awareness of the campaign.

One area of focus will be chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a progressive brain condition thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and concussions.

Dr Willie Stewart who works for the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group and will be overseeing the project says: “Despite the many advances in understanding outcomes from brain injury we and others have reported, we must recognise that sex differences have not been adequately explored.”

“I hope that through this partnership more females will consider registering to donate their brain for research to allow us to take forward these important studies.”

This follows Dr Stewart’s recent landmark study, where he found that former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die with a neurodegenerative disease than their counterparts in the general population. 

2020 also looks set to be a big year for PINK Concussions who are aiming to recruit 2,020 women from around the world to donate their brains and boost research into female brain injury caused by sports concussion, domestic violence, accidents and military service.

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