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Female Soccer Stars Sign On To Landmark CTE Research At Boston University

BOSTON (CBS) - A landmark study of CTE in female athletes is launching at Boston University, with some big name support. Former U.S. soccer stars Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers have joined the long-term study on the impact of years of heading the ball, and other soccer-related head trauma.

Both women were members of World Cup winning U.S. Women's National Teams in the 1990s. The study will follow Akers, Chastain, and 18 other former high-level female soccer players who are over the age of 40.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a debilitating brain disease, most often associated with football players. Boston University has become a leading research center on CTE.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, both Akers and Chastain – now in their early 50s – said they experience occasional memory lapses. Akers has also suffered chronic migraines for decades.

"One of the difficulties is, how do you determine what's not normal and what is?" Akers told CBS, noting that she sometimes headed the ball 50 times a game.

Chastain said that sometimes, "I can't remember some details of a place we went ... or somebody's last name." She wants to know if that is just a normal aging process, or something more serious.

The study at Boston University's School of Medicine is being led by neurology professor Robert Stern. "I am concerned that this game played by hundreds of millions across the globe might be played in a way right now that could lead to later life brain disease," Stern told CBS. "That's pretty scary."

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