Calgary legend John Forzani’s brain donated for research

CALGARY- The late John Forzani joins 11 other former football and hockey players who have donated their brain to science.

Researchers with the Canadian Sport Concussion Project hope the donated organs will help shed light on the impact head trauma could have on atJohn Forzanihletes later in life.

Forzani played with the Calgary Stampeders from 1971 to 1976. His former teammate Basil Bark says Forzani took some big hits.

“I can remember one time John was playing in a game beside me, I was a centre and he was a guard and his helmet collapsed,” Bark said Thursday.

“After the game for the next two days eyes were closed, eyes were black and blue and I know he was concussed.”

Researchers say the donation of Forzani’s brain is extremely important because he was so healthy from a cognitive point of view, prior to his death.

Sport concussions have been linked to a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, a degenerative brain disease that can cause dementia, depression and agression.

Because CTE can only be diagnosed after death, researchers have only been able to study the disease by examining the brains of former elite athletes.

What researchers don’t know is why some athletes experience symptoms of CTE in their early 40’s and 50’s, while others, like John Forzani, do not.

Fortunately, through data collected from MRI’s researchers have been able to uncover new clues. For example, they’ve found that memorizing complicated plays, like the ones in high level football, may help prevent future brain damage.

“The capacity to be able to learn in that manner is usually associated with larger hippocampi, different genetic predisposition and maybe this will turn out to be a protective factor for them in the long run,” explained Dr. Robin Green, with the Sport Concussion Project on Thursday.

That progress is encouraging others, like Basil Bark to help push the science forward.

“We’re trying to take that issue to the younger people and we need to have people like John, people like myself, people like the hockey players donate their brains so we can find out the truth,” he said Thursday.

The Canadian Sport Concussion Project is the world’s first project to study the long-term effects of concussions on professional athletes.

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