Female Athletes, High School Athletes, and Brain Injury Severity

Are certain athletes at greater risk of a debilitating brain injury than others?  According to an article in Women’s Health, female and younger athletes may “take longer to recover from concussions.”  The article cited a new study conducted by researchers in Michigan State University’s Department of Kinesiology.  How can this information help victims of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)?  In short, the findings suggest that treatment options should be different based on the age and sex of the victim, and physicians should take these factors into account when treating patients with head trauma.

Girl in Hospital Bed

Age and Sex Impact Recovery: Details of the Study

According to Tracey Covassin, the lead researcher on the study, “females performed worse than males on visual memory tests” after sustaining a TBI, and females also “reported more symptoms postconcussion.”  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that concussions are a form of mild traumatic brain injury, and they’re typically characterized by a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head.”  Typically, concussions aren’t life-threatening injuries, but they can have serious and debilitating effects nonetheless.

While women had more difficulty with visual memory tasks and had more pronounced symptoms than males after sustaining concussions, high school athletes involved in the study had even more problems.  In relation to college athletes who sustained mild TBIs, athletes at high school age performed worse on “verbal and visual memory tests.”  In addition, many of those high school athletes reported that they were still “impaired up to two weeks after their injuries.”

Covassin, who is a certified athletic trainer at the university, explained that researchers previously have suggested that female and younger athletes can take longer to recover after they sustain a concussion, but her team’s research makes clear that age and sex also play a role in a TBI victim’s cognitive abilities.

Promoting Awareness About Women and Sports-Related Concussions

While the study presents compelling information about the rate and severity of concussions among high school athletes and female athletes, it also begs for more awareness measures when it comes to sports-related head trauma.  In particular, Covassin argues that “simple education” is largely lacking when it comes to women and sports.  Discussing her study, she emphasized that “we need to raise awareness that . . . female athletes do get concussions.”  For, as she explains, “too often, when we speak with parents and coaches, they overlook the fact that in comparable sports, females are concussed more than males.”

Female athletes in high school may be at particularly high risk of serious post-concussion injury.  If young women aren’t closely assessed for concussions, they may not fully recover after sustaining a TBI.  These women can be at risk of second-impact syndrome, a term that refers to a situation where a second concussion can produce particularly severe symptoms and debilitating brain damage.

Brain injuries are all too common among athletes who participate in contact sports, but it’s important to remember that a serious head trauma can result from many different kinds of accidents.  If you have a loved one who recently suffered a TBI, you should talk to an experienced San Diego brain injury lawyer about your case.  At the Walton Law Firm, we are committed to helping Southern Californians who have sustained serious brain injuries.

Photo Credit: Kris Krug via Compfight cc

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