For Matt Hasselbeck, football was always the family business. Don Hasselbeck played tight end in the NFL for nine seasons, mostly with the New England Patriots. Both Matt and his brother, Tim, followed their father into the league, where each played quarterback. And after retiring, the brothers both ended up filling analyst chairs at ESPN.
On Wednesday, just like his father did before him, Matt Hasselbeck pledged to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, where it someday will help support research into concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“During my football career, we didn’t have enough information on the long-term effects of concussions and brain trauma,” Hasselbeck, 41, said in a news release. “I want to be part of the solution, and by pledging my brain I am doing my part to provide the data to protect the next generation of athletes.”
More than 1,800 former athletes and military veterans have pledged their brains to help with concussion-related research after they die. Hasselbeck, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who retired in 2016, becomes one of the most high-profile ex-players to do so publicly. Leonard Marshall, the former New York Giants’ defensive lineman, made a similar commitment Wednesday.
More than 400 brains have been donated to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank — a collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation — which has resulted in the diagnosis of more than 250 cases of CTE.
“CTE is no joke, and I don’t want to see anyone else suffer like me and my friends,” Marshall said. “At 55, I have short-term memory loss, erratic behavior and experience fogginess. This is literally a life-or-death matter, and it’s time we start having real, honest conversations about brain trauma in professional and youth sports.”
Hasselbeck played 17 seasons in the NFL, including 10 with the Seattle Seahawks, and joined ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” in 2016. As a player, he was a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, where he worked on a variety of health issues, including concussions and helmet safety. In 2013, he joined Chris Nowinski, the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s executive director, at a news conference before Super Bowl XLVII, calling for state high school athletic associations to ban full-contact practices in the offseason.
His father, Don, pledged his brain in 2010.
In Wednesday’s news release, Nowinski said: “We are working to create a culture of brain donation in America by asking living athletes and Veterans to donate their brains to the Brain Bank to be studied by VA and Boston University researchers. … Now in our 10th year studying the disease, we have taken major steps toward treatment and a cure that are only possible through collaboration among the athlete, Veteran, and scientific communities.”