Concussions are common injuries in sports, particularly in youth sports. Each year, between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions from sports-related injuries are reported in the United States. Almost nine percent of US high school sports injuries are concussions.
Researchers studying concussions look at a number of variables in concussive injuries in an effort to better prevent concussion. Differences between male and female athletes who have had a sports concussion is one interesting, yet complex topic that researchers have attempted to tackle.
When studying youth sports, researchers have found that girls may be more prone to a concussive injury than boys, while there is also some evidence to suggest girls recover more quickly from concussions than boys.
Though the answer is not clear, a female athlete may be more prone to experience a concussion than a male athlete due to endocrine or hormonal influences, as well as musculoskeletal strength — such as neck stabilization in times of contact, explained Dr. Vernon Williams of the Kerlan-Jobe Center for Sports Neurology.
Girls may recover more quickly from a concussion than boys, simply because girls may be more likely to report symptoms earlier than boys, although again, research is not conclusive.
According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), concussive injuries can occur in any sport, though they are more common in high-speed contact sports. Sports that pose the greatest risk to youth athletes include: football, rugby, hockey, and soccer. Baseball, softball, volleyball, and gymnastics involve the least risk to athletes.
In terms of gender, the AAN has found that in sports with similar rules of participation (soccer and basketball) concussion risk is greater in females than in males. For other sports, there is not enough data to break the differences down by gender.
Whether an athlete is male or female, recognizing and treating a concussion early is key to complete recovery. According to the AAN, signs of concussions may include:
• Behavior or personality changes
• Blank stare or dazed look
• Changes in balance, coordination, or reaction time
• Delayed or slowed speech or physical responses
• Loss of consciousness/blackout
• Memory loss of event before, during, or after injury
• Slurred speech
• Difficulty controlling emotions
Someone who has suffered a concussion may experience any number of these symptoms:
• Blurry or double vision
• Feeling hazy, foggy, or groggy
• Feeling drowsy or having sleep problems
• Inability to focus or concentrate
• Sensitivity to light or sound
• Not feeling “right”
If you are the parent or coach of the student athlete, it’s important to know these signs and to educate your athlete(s) on the symptoms associated with concussions. An athlete who continues to play following a concussive injury is at greater risk of experiencing a secondary concussion and suffering more serious brain injury or permanent damage.
For tips on preventing concussions, read these tips from Dr. Williams.