Birk among three active NFL players to posthumously donate brains to concussion research

Pictured: Matt Birk, center left with the ball.

Harvard graduate and Baltimore Ravens' center Matt Birk, linebacker Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks and receiver Sean Morey of the Arizona Cardinals announced Monday they have donated their brains and spinal cord tissue to a Boston University medical school program that studies sports brain injuries.

Several former NFL players have agreed to donate their brains after death, but Birk, Tatupu and Morey are the first active players to do so.

The goal of the university's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy is to better understand the long-term effects of repeated concussions.

"When you are active, your contract - what you get paid - is based on the perception of your health, and no player wants to be perceived as being prone to concussions," said Chris Nowinski, the center's co-director and also a former Harvard football player, told the Associated Press. "That's why I am so impressed with these guys. I hope they are the first of many."

Nowinski is a former pro wrestler with the WWE who had to retire because of the effects of multiple concussions.

As part of the program, the players will be interviewed annually for the rest of their lives so researchers can examine the relationship between clinical symptoms and pathology.