Athletes to donate brains for study
Former NFL linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski quickly agreed when his ex-teammate at Harvard asked if he would donate his brain after death for research into concussions.
"It's a noble cause," Kacyvenski said yesterday. "It's something close to my heart. I've had several concussions."
Kacyvenski, 30, is one of 16 pro athletes, including six former NFL players, who have agreed to donate their brains to the new Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, a joint program between the Boston University School of Medicine and Sports Legacy Institute.
SLI founder Chris Nowinski played with Kacyvenski at Harvard in the late 1990s before becoming a pro wrestler and is seeking athletes willing to donate their brains.
"Our goal is for people to start taking concussions seriously," Nowinski said. "That means getting off the field when they receive them and finding ways to prevent them."
Other former NFL players who have agreed to donate their brains after their deaths are Ted Johnson, Frank Wycheck, Ben Lynch, Bernie Parrish, and Bruce Laird, said Nowinski, who also agreed to donate his brain. Among other athletes participating are former US Olympic swimmer Jenny Thompson, hockey player Noah Welch, who played last year for the Florida Panthers, and former US national soccer team player Cindy Parlow.
"I'm not being vindictive. I'm not trying to reach up from the grave and get the NFL," Johnson, a former Patriots linebacker, told the
The 35-year-old's neurologist has pointed to Johnson's multiple concussions between 2002-05 as a cause of his permanent and degenerative problems with memory and depression, the Times reported.
Kacyvenski, who played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2000 until joining the St. Louis Rams early in 2006, his final NFL season, said the study is not an indication that the NFL is at fault.
"There might be a connotation that this is a witch hunt, point the finger at the NFL," he said. "It's just not like that."
The NFL is overseeing a study of retired players on the effects of concussions that should be completed by 2010, spokesman Greg Aiello said.
"We support all research that would further the scientific and medical understanding of this injury, which affects thousands of people, athletes and non-athletes alike, every year," he said.
For some, the decision to donate their brains is difficult.
"People have to face their own mortality when they make that decision," Nowinski said.