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Damage Found In Former AFLW Athlete Jacinda Barclay’s Brain

L
ate AFLW athlete, Jacinda Barclay, has become the first contact sportswoman to have her brain donated to the Australian Sports Brain Bank.

Barclay died last year after a battle with mental illness and the Brain Bank have found degradation to her cerebral white matter.

White matter changes have been linked to a development of mental illness and increased risk of suicidal ideation.

On the research of Barclay’s brain, Australian Sports Brain Bank executive director, Michael Buckland, said: “The vessels in the white matter had changes that you often see in elderly people, but not in someone of Jacinda’s age who is in peak physical health.”

“An elite athlete shouldn’t have those changes.

“There was some evidence of white matter injury around those altered vessels.

“I hadn’t noticed that before in other subjects, but we haven’t had many athlete donors as young as Jacinda before,” he said.

Jacinda notably played AFLW for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, represented Australia in baseball in five world cups, and American Football.

The research revealed no evidence of CTE and Barclay did not have a clinical history of concussions.

However, Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) co-founder, Dr. Chris Nowinski, says repetitive head impacts can damage the brain in different ways.

Talking to Ministry of Sport, Dr. Nowinski said: “Our research team in Boston has previously published that white matter and vascular damage from head impacts independently contribute to impaired brain function.”

“Therefore, it is appropriate to say Jacinda Barclay’s findings have a significance we are only beginning to understand, and they should be taken as seriously as CTE findings,” he said.

CTE and concussion research organisations are urging more women athletes to consider donating their brains as there is little research for women compared to men.

“We urgently need to understand the consequences of head impacts in all contact sports, at all ages, and in both men and women,” Dr. Nowinski said.

“Only 3% of our athlete brain donations in the US are from women, so every brain donation is important, and we welcome more families to follow the lead of the Barclay family in Australia,” he said.