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Spare a Cerebellum?

Ex-wrestler collects brains for research

WHY WOULD anyonedonate his brain to Chris Harvard? A few years ago Harvard was a WWE wrestler,a smarty-pants who wore a varsity jacket and had a signature move called theHonor Roll. Not surprisingly, Harvard really wasn't Harvard—his real name isChris Nowinski—but he did graduate cum laude from Harvard, where he was anAll--Ivy League defensive lineman. After retiring in 2004, Nowinski, 30, becamea health-care consultant.

Still, he wasn'tan example of mens sana in corpore sano. Nowinski was still dealing with theeffects of at least six concussions he had suffered. His first, he says, madehim forget friends' names. After his second he saw an orange light. Furtherhead injuries led to depression and sleepwalking. Eager to learn more about hiscondition, Nowinski began researching concussions, and he became a crusader forawareness of the problems they cause. In 2006 he wrote a book, Head Games, andhe works with Boston University doctors who have established a link betweensports concussions and a form of dementia called chronic traumaticencephalopathy. In '07 he cofounded the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofitthat studies brain injuries in athletes.

Last week the SLIand BU announced that 12 current and former pro athletes who have sufferedconcussions, including former NFLers Ted Johnson and Frank Wycheck (left) andFlorida Panthers defenseman Noah Welch, have agreed to donate their brains forresearch. Nowinski was instrumental in persuading the athletes to donate."A few people cut me off and said, 'So you want my brain?'" saysNowinski. "But the usual answer is 'Sure. I'm not going to need it when I'mdead.'" BU is hoping to eventually build a brain bank with at least 100specimens.