Many precautions are taken to reduce head injuries in sports–from wearing helmets to implementing rules that make contact to the head illegal. However, it’s inevitable that some athletes will sustain head injuries, even in non-contact sports.
Out of more than seven million high school athletes who play each year, approximately 500,000 spend time on the sidelines recovering from concussions. Unfortunately, more athletes are suffering concussions as participation increases and games become faster and more physical.
Although much research on concussions has yet to be done, recent studies highlight one important fact: females participating in high school sports are more likely to sustain a concussion than males—in spite of higher male participation in contact sports.
Currently, there’s no evidence to explain why females sustain more concussions. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that both genders appear to recover from concussions and get back on the field in roughly the same amount of time.
Symptoms differ. Males more frequently suffer from cognitive effects, including “feeling slowed down, feeling like they were in a fog, difficulty concentrating and remembering.” Females suffer more from neurobehavioral and somatic symptoms, such as “sleeping more than usual, drowsiness, fatigue and nervousness, or headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise and balance problems.”
Until now, most concussion research has focused on males, including concussion identification and rehabilitation techniques. We need more up-to-date guidelines to ensure that athletic trainers and coaches are aware of the different symptoms that female athletes may experience after contact to the head.
Frommer, L. E. (2011). Sex Differences in Concussion Symptoms of High School Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training.