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March 28, 2016

Former Temple soccer star Len Oliver pledges brain to concussion research

Northeast High School alum and U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer says he sustained six head injuries during career

A former Temple University soccer star who was raised in the city's Kensington neighborhood has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord to researchers studying brain trauma among athletes.

Len Oliver, a three-time All-American who boosted Temple to national championships in 1951 and 1953, is finalizing details with the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the Washington Post reported.

At 82, Oliver said his age provides researchers with a unique opportunity. Many other athletes who have committed their brains to research efforts, like Brandi Chastain, are far younger, he told the Post.

"She's 47. It might be 40-50 years before they get to her. I could pass tomorrow."

Oliver, who played youth soccer with Lighthouse Boys Club before starring at Northeast High School, said he hopes researchers will gain greater insights into concussions, but perhaps also kill the notion that heading the ball is dangerous.

A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Oliver told he Post he sustained six head injuries that likely would have been deemed concussions today, and they all came from head-to-head collisions.

"It's good we are more aware of concussion policy and protocol. But the moment you start insisting heading the ball is dangerous, there goes the sport."

In November, U.S. Soccer announced guidelines intended to protect young players from concussions. These prohibit players who are 10 and younger from heading the ball and limit headers during practice for 11- to 13-year-old players.

After graduating from Temple, Oliver played in the American Soccer League during the 1950s and 1960s. He also made the Pan-American soccer team in 1963 and the U.S. Olympic team in 1964.

He earned a doctorate degree from the University of Chicago after retiring from soccer and worked in the humanities and continuing education departments. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Read the full Washington Post story here.

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