Female Athletes Need to Watch Out for Concussions, Too

August 1, 2013 | Dr. Bradley Weinberger

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When people think of concussions, they often think of male football players, especially when they're talking about high school sports. But there is substantial evidence that young female athletes are more likely to get concussions than males, across many sports.

A 2011 study found that 24% of all injuries among female high school basketball players were concussions, versus 17% for males. The study found similar differences in soccer and softball/baseball (23% vs. 14%).[1] And a study of 20 sports found that the risk of concussion for females is 1.7 times greater overall than for males.[2]

The causes of concussion also vary between the genders. Contact with another player is most common among males, whereas for females it's primarily contact with the ground or with equipment, like a lacrosse stick.[3]

Severity also differs. Females report more symptoms after head injuries and during recovery and do worse on tests of brain function and reaction time.[4,5]  Another study estimated that females were cognitively impaired at 1.7 times the rate of males.[4]

Why female athletes are at higher risk for concussion is unclear. Differences in sex hormones, musculature and brain anatomy may all play a role. Or maybe females are more open and honest about reporting symptoms of a head injury. Whatever the reason, females should take the proper precautions to prevent head injuries, and any hit that produces concussion symptoms should be reported and treated right away.

References


[1] Lincoln, A. E., Caswell, S. V., Almquist, J. L., Dunn, R. E., Norris, J. B., & Hinton, R. Y. (2011). "Trends in concussion incidence in high school sports; a prospective 11-year study." The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(5), 958-963.

[2] Marar, M., McIlvain, N. M., Fields, S. K., & Comstock, R. D. (2012). "Epidemiology of concussions among United States high school athletes in 20 sports." The American Journal of Sports Medicine,

[3] Dick, R. (2009). "Is there a gender difference in concussion incidence and outcomes?" British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(Suppl 1), i46-i50.

[4] Broshek, D. K., Kaushik, T., Freeman, J. R., Erlanger, D., Webbe, F., & Barth, J. T. (2005). "Sex differences in outcome following sports-related concussion." Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group. 

[5] Colvin, A. C., Mullen, J., Lovell, M. R., West, R. V., Collins, M. W., & Groh, M. (2009). "The role of concussion history and gender in recovery from soccer-related concussion." American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.


Topics: CONCUSSION
Dr. Bradley Weinberger
- Dr. Bradley Weinberger is currently a fellow in primary care sports medicine at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. He previously completed his Residency...
Dr. Bradley Weinberger
- Dr. Bradley Weinberger is currently a fellow in primary care sports medicine at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. He previously completed his Residency...
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