Girls could suffer more severe concussions

By Shayna Brouker • Published: August 16th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Since the establishment of Title Nine, female athletes have leveled the playing field with their male counterparts, starting in childhood. Anything boys can do, girls can do better … except when it comes to recovering from concussions. Researchers already knew that girls are more susceptible to brain injuries, but a new study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that it takes them longer to recover, too.

High school and college students make up a large number of the 1.6 million American athletes who get concussions every year, and female athletes — particularly younger ones — bear the brunt of it. They report more symptoms and show greater declines in visual memory compared with their male cohorts. Junior jocks especially experience persistent cognitive impairments over time, which last an average of 10 to 21 days after a head injury. That’s two to three times longer than as reported in college athletes.

Sports docs say it’s because adolescent and young adult brains are not yet fully developed and don’t bounce back as readily as adult brains. Females face a greater risk because they have higher elevated estrogen levels, increased blood flow and more metabolic needs in the brain, which may intensify brain injuries.

For anyone, a headache is a tell-tale symptom. Trouble concentrating, balancing, remembering things, blurry vision, dizziness and nausea also signal a head injury. The worst thing to do is go back in the game — the player should immediately sit out and take a breather. Sustaining a second concussion while you’re still healing can cause permanent damage. Head injuries, especially in girls and young women, require proper rest and recovery, including time off from school, if necessary. Calculus is hard enough with a healthy brain, let alone a bruised one.