This serious injury happens to more women than men
Sport-related concussion is a growing concern, impacting not only highly-paid NFL players, but children and young adult athletes, as well. Now, a recent study by Columbia University in New York has found that among college athletes, women were 50 percent more likely to suffer a concussion than their male counterparts.
“It’s unclear why women appear to be at higher risk for sports-related concussion than men,” Dr. James Noble, a neurologist and co-leader of the study, said in a press release. “The findings from this study highlight the need for more research on the gender differences in concussion.”
The study looked at 1,203 male and female athletes who attended Columbia from 2000-2014. Of them, 23 percent of the women sustained a sports-related concussion, compared with 17 percent of the men.
Researchers speculated that the discrepancy might come from physiologic differences in the heads and necks of women and men or perhaps from variances in how the injury is reported – but neither of these possibilities have yet been proven.
Concussions are caused by either a direct blow to the head and face or by transmitted forces from direct contact to another part of the body, says Dr. Sara Dumich, an Advocate Medical Group sports medicine physician on staff at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.
“A concussion can cause a multitude of symptoms that can temporarily impair physical and cognitive abilities,” she says. These symptoms include headache, dizziness, blurred vision, light and noise sensitivities, nausea, concentration and memory problems, confusion, fatigue and more.
“80-90 percent of concussion symptoms resolve in 7-10 days,” Dr. Dumich says, “but some can have lingering symptoms that can have a dramatic impact on daily living.”
Both Dr. Dumich and the Columbia researchers agree there is still a lot that medical science doesn’t know about concussions, but it is known that athletes of both sexes need a significant “time-out” after experiencing one.
“The main risk of a concussion is called ‘second impact syndrome,” says Dr. Dumich. “Second impact syndrome is when an athlete suffers another head impact before the resolution of symptoms and physiologic changes associated with the first concussion. This second traumatic event can lead to swelling of the brain and other severe consequences.”
Each concussion is different, Dr. Dumich says, and there is no cookie-cutter treatment for managing symptoms and returning to play.
“A doctor can help diagnose, track and manage concussion symptoms as well as design an individual strategy to help with returning to sports,” she says.
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