BOSTON (AP) -Sixteen athletes, including six former NFL players, have agreed to donate their brains to a program that will study the long-term effects of concussions, a founder of an organization running it said Wednesday.
``Our goal is for people to start taking concussions seriously,'' said Chris Nowinski, a former pro wrestler and Harvard football player. ``That means getting off the field when they receive them and finding ways to prevent them.''
The study is a joint effort by Nowinski's Sports Legacy Institute and the Boston University School of Medicine. They are collaborating in the new Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Among former NFL players who have agreed to donate their brains after their deaths are Ted Johnson, Frank Wycheck, Isaiah Kacyvenski and Ben Lynch. Also participating are Noah Welch, who played hockey for the Florida Panthers last season, and Cindy Parlow, a former member of the U.S. national soccer team.
hing wrong with me,'' Johnson, a former New England Patriots linebacker, told The New York Times for a story first published Tuesday night on its Web site.
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.
``I'm not being vindictive. I'm not trying to reach up from the grave and get the NFL,'' Johnson added. ``But any doctor who doesn't connect concussions with long-term effects should be ashamed of themselves.''
Nowinski has seen greater awareness to dangers from concussions.
``Whereas three years ago I tried to speak on this issue and coaches were able to keep me out of their schools because they didn't want their kids to be scared,'' he said, ``now, for example, we just ran all New Hampshire Pop Warner head coaches through an educational program. They're now holding kids out much more often because they can recognize the concussions better.''
Nowinski said SLI is setting up a registry with the names the people who have agreed to donate their brains and that Boston University will oversee the scientific aspects.
ustin Strzelczyk were the first four.
``We support all research that would further the scientific and medical understanding of this injury, which affects thousands of people, athletes and nonathletes alike, every year,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. ``Hundreds of thousands of people have played football and other sports without experiencing any problem of this type, and there continues to be considerable debate in the medical community on the precise long-term effects of concussions and how they relate to other risk factors.''
Grimsley died in February of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in February that police ruled an accident.
The NFL is conducting its own study on concussions, and Aiello expected the results to be published in 2010.

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