Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, an Academic All-American who graduated from Vanderbilt, is one of more than a dozen NFL players who have pledged to donate their brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.
The donations are part of an NFL push to discover links between concussions and brain injuries. Players were encouraged to get involved individually.
Along with Hillenmeyer, Sean Morey of the Cardinals, Matt Birk of the Ravens, and Lofa Tatupu of the Seahawks have all promised to donate their brains in the name of science. Hall of Famers John Mackey (who has dementia) and Mike Haynes will also participate.
"The only way we will truly understand the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma in football is to study a large group of athletes throughout their lives and then examine their brains following death," said Dr. Robert Stern, a co-director of the Center, reports the AP.
For years, the NFL has downplayed scientific studies showing athletes' heightened risk for brain injury.
Recently, however, the organization has stepped up and established stricter guidelines detailing when players can return to the field after a concussion. Also, players with brain injuries must consult independent neurologists, not the team's trainers.
These smart ideas show the NFL is finally using its brain.
Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.