After a concussion, women tend to have
worse symptoms than men. That's the case even when athletes were injured
playing the same sport, according to a new study of young soccer players.
Some recent studies have found gender
differences in memory and other symptoms after concussions, with women
generally doing worse.
The new results support findings that women
take longer to recover than men, Tracey Covassin said. She led the study at
Michigan State University in East Lansing.
"Results from this study may impact
sports medicine clinicians on being more cautious when returning female
concussed soccer athletes back to participation," Covassin told Reuters
Health."Moreover, healthcare professionals need to be aware that females
could report more total concussion symptoms compared to male concussed
athletes," she added.
The researchers looked at 39 male and 56
female soccer players who sustained a concussion. All were in high school or
Eight days afterwards
The athletes took computer tests that
measured their learning and memory skills, reaction time and physical symptoms
before the soccer season started and again eight days after their concussion.
On the preseason tests, men and women
scored fairly similarly. But eight days after their concussions, women scored
lower on a test that measures a person's ability to remember visual images 69%,
on average, compared to 77% among men. Scores on other thinking and memory
tests were still comparable. Women also reported more total symptoms
post-concussion than men.
men and women said they had minimal amounts of body pain or mood changes. But
women reported migraines and sleep difficulties more than twice as often as
men, according to results published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
"This study presents data from a large
bank of injuries in a young population and those data will ultimately help
answer some of the questions of how and why there are differences," Susan
Saliba is a physical therapist, athletic
trainer and associate professor at the Curry School of Education at the
University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
One very similar recent study did not find
thinking and memory differences between men and women after a concussion.
The author of that study, Dr Scott
Zuckerman, was surprised the results did not align. "It's a well-done
study, and thorough, but we can't draw global conclusions from the body of evidence
yet," Zuckerman, from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville,
Tennessee, told Reuters Health.
The only difference in the studies was that
this time, Covassin and her colleagues accounted for athletes' body mass index
(BMI), a measure of weight relative to height, in their results.
They suggest larger people have more neck
strength and are better able to stabilise the head on impact, suffering a less
severe concussion as a result. But in their study, women had a slightly higher
average BMI than men, yet had poorer memory recovery and more symptoms
At the moment, theories on the role of body
size in concussion recovery are just that: theories."I do believe that
size can contribute to concussion severity, incidence and recovery, but I'm not
sure how," Saliba told Reuters Health.
"Larger individuals may have better neck
strength, but they also have more mass, which is a factor in transmitting
force. "Other ongoing studies are investigating this issue, she
said. "Teachers, parents and athletes need to be aware of all the signs and
symptoms of a concussion in order to recognise an athlete who incurs a
concussion," Covassin said.
Although there may be differences in
symptoms between men and women, she said, it's more important to know that every
concussion, and every athlete, is unique and requires individualised treatment.