Four Canadian female athletes pledge their brains to science

The Canadian Concussion Centre is about to get a bit brainier from the public pledge of four highly decorated female athletes brains. The four women decided to donate their brains to advance research on the effects of concussions on women.

The women are:

* Cassie Campbell-Pascall: Two-time Olympic gold medallist, Order of Canada, Order of Hockey in Canada recipient and Queens Diamond Jubilee recipient.

* Jen Kish: 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, 2015 Pan Am Games gold medallist, and 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens silver medallist as captain of the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team.

* Kerrin Lee-Gartner: Olympic gold medallist and three-time Olympic team member in alpine skiing.

* Fran Rider: Competitive athlete and life-long advocate for the advancement of Female Hockey in the world, leading the drive for Olympic participation.

“The Canadian Concussion Centre is honoured to receive the commitment of brain donations from these legendary Canadian athletes and I applaud them for their decision,” says. Dr. Charles Tator, director of the CCC. “Research is showing that concussions affect women differently than they do men, and our ability to analyse the changes that can occur in women’s brains as a result of concussions will help us better understand and treat these injuries.”

Each of these athletes have dealt with concussion injuries in the past and have expressed common hopes that this pledge will shed new light on understanding concussions in women:

“I wanted to be part of such a great group of women to donate my brain to the Canadian Concussion Centre to help with concussion research down the road,” says Cassie Campbell-Pascall, the only Canadian captain, male or female, to lead a hockey team to two Olympic gold medals. “I loved playing sports and have no regrets, but having had some concussions I would like to make sure that future generations are protected as much as possible while still being able to play sports at all levels. I am also glad to be amongst this group, as we are the first to donate our brains to Canadian research and I am extremely proud of that.”

“There are limits to the research that can be done on a brain of a living person; and a lot of the research has been primarily based on men,” says Jen Kish Canada’s 2012 and 2013 women’s sevens team Player of the Year.  “I’m donating my brain in hopes that it will help with better evidence-based treatments and prevention strategies for traumatic brain injury, and give researchers an opportunity to compare a female brain to what they already know about a male brain. “

“I have been living with, and healing from, a brain injury suffered in a car accident in 2016. Of all the serious injuries, concussions and high speed falls I had as a ski racer, nothing has been as difficult to overcome as the challenges of post-concussion syndrome and the effect it has on my daily life,” says Kerrin Lee-Gartner, the first Canadian in history to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing. “I am therefore donating my brain to the Canadian Concussion Centre with the hope of helping future generations in the prevention and treatment of brain injuries.”

“Dr. Charles Tator is an amazing person whose life-long work has saved and enriched the lives of countless individuals. His work and positive vision are leaving a powerful legacy for future generations,” says Fran Rider current president of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. “As a competitive hockey and fastball player for 35 years and a participant in multiple sports, I am honoured to donate my brain to science in support of the outstanding work done by medical researchers committed to safety in sport and in life.”

The CCC comprises a group of 19 clinician and basic scientists, and is one of few research groups in the world to examine the entire spectrum of concussion disorders from acute injury to chronic illness including brain degeneration. The announcement also launches a partnership between the CCC and the international, U.S.-based non-profit PINK Concussions to direct Canadian women interested in donating their brains to research institutions in Canada.

“The CCC has learned a great deal from examining the brains of 44 professional athletes to date, however all of the donors were male,” says Dr. Tator. “It is important to include women as part of this research.”


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