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Athletes pledge to donate brains for research

by: Tom Leyden Updated:

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WESTON - As more and more people become aware of concussions and start asking questions The Concussion Legacy Foundation continues its groundbreaking work to make a difference. 
 
Former Harvard football player and professional wrestler Chris Nowinski leads the mission, focused on solving the sports concussion crisis. His work with the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the Boston University CTE Center has led to incredible discoveries that have shed light on the issues surrounding brain trauma and post-concussion syndrome. 
 
Hundreds of former athletes and military veterans have made the pledge to donate their brains upon their deaths, including former Bruins forward Shawn McEachern, who played hockey for more than three decades.
 
"I said I'd be willing to do it, but then you sit down and think about it, and I talked to my wife a little bit about it and yeah, it's an odd moment, but it's something I think I really want to do to help the sport," said McEachern. "I have three kids that played hockey. I coach a hockey team of prep school kids and I think it's an important issue." 

"For us to be able to get the kind of volume that we need, we need people to know that our brain bank is out there," said Nowinski, CEO of The Concussion Legacy Foundation. "So one of the ways that we promote it is we get athletes to pledge their brain while they're alive." 
 
Ted Johnson, who played ten season with the Patriots and has been very outspoken about concussion awareness since his retirement in 2005, was early to commit his brain to science. 
 
"Myself and Isaiah Kacyvenski, we were the first two," said Johnson. "This whole issue, when I retired in 2005, I had never heard of post-concussion syndrome, traumatic brain injury, second-impact syndrome, CTE - I didn't know any of that. We all know that now and we need to get more information."  

McEachern is in his seventh season behind the bench as head coach of the hockey team at the Rivers School in Weston, and he's seen a new approach to concussion awareness from when he played. 
 
"It's something that's talked about before the season starts," said McEachern. "Recognize concussions. Our trainers talk to us about it. They talk to the kids about, if you don't feel well, don't go back and play. That's something that just didn't happen years ago." 

Brain pledges aren't limited to former athletes or military vets, so if you'd like to learn more, visit ConcussionFoundation.org/pledge