There is little known about the specific effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as concussions, on women, mainly because the majority of published studies on the subject have focused more on men. A growing body of evidence suggests, however, that females have a higher rate of concussions than men playing sports with similar rules,1,2 with one study showing that women athletes are 50 percent more likely than male athletes to have a sports-related concussion.3
“With the recent focus on female athletes and brain health, there is an opportunity to raise more awareness of sex and gender differences in concussion,” Katherine Price Snedaker, LCSW, Executive Director PINK Concussions, a non-profit organization that focuses on pre-injury education and post-injury medical care for women and girls with brain injury, said in a news release. “Whether the injury is caused in sport, an assault, a fall or motor vehicle accident, it is important for families and medical providers to recognize possible differences in women and girls following a brain injury.”
“Differences in their brains and their upper bodies, particularly the muscles in the neck and how they react after collisions, as well as hormonal issues are some reasons why experts believe concussions might affect female athletes and non-athletes differently than males,” DeAnn Fitzgerald, OD, Vice President, Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA), said in the news release.
NORA is a non-profit inter-disciplinary group of professionals dedicated to helping patients who have physical or cognitive disabilities as a result of an acquired brain injury, such as a concussion.
NORA and PINK Concussions have developed a new educational resource, “Women and Concussions,” that provides some helpful information on why concussions might affect women differently than men. It can be viewed and downloaded from both the NORA (www.noravisionrehab.org) and PINK Concussions (www.PINKconcussions.org) websites.
“Traumatic brain injury is a serious public health concern,” says Ms. Snedaker. “We can improve the care and recovery of women and girls by educating the public, patients and medical professionals on sex and gender differences in brain injury as well as the importance of seeking immediate diagnosis and care following an incident.”
A recently published study reported that female athletes seek specialty medical treatment later than male athletes for sports-related concussions and this delay may cause them to experience more symptoms and longer recoveries.4 Another study reported that girls who suffer a sports-related concussion get specialty care nearly a week later on average than boys.5
- Dick RW. Is there a gender difference in concussion incidence and outcomes? Br J Sports Med. 2009;43 (suppl 1):i46–i50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433425
- Echlin PS, Skopelja EN, Worsley R, et al. A prospective study of physician-observed concussion during a varsity university ice hockey season: incidence and neuropsychological changes. Part 2 of 4. Neurosurg Focus. 2012;33(6):E2:1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23199425
- American Academy of Neurology Press Release, “Women may be at higher risk for sports-related concussion than men,” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170301084723.htm, accessed April 24, 2019
- Natasha Desai, Douglas J. Wiebe, Daniel J. Corwin, Julia E. Lockyer, Matthew F. Grady, Christina L. Master. Factors Affecting Recovery Trajectories in Pediatric Female Concussion. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2019; 29 (5): 361 DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000646
- Desai, Natasha MD, CAQSM; Wiebe, Douglas J. PhD; Corwin, Daniel J. MD; Lockyer, Julia E. MS; Grady, Matthew F. MD, CAQSM§,¶; Master, Christina L. MD, CAQSM, Factors Affecting Recovery Trajectories in Pediatric Female Concussion, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: September 2019 – Volume 29 – Issue 5 – p 361–367