The Head Injury Our Kids Are Still Getting

Research shows girls experience concussion more often that we think, and differently

by Carleen Wild | Updated 07 Oct 2016 at 8:33 AM

When people talk about concussions (and their after-effects), they’re often talking about football. Even this week, the NCAA learned of an additional 18 class-action lawsuits by Division 1 football players. That brings the total number of cases against the league to 43, according to ESPN. The lawsuits allege players’ concussions were mishandled while the players were in college — and the athletes are seeking damages not only from the NCAA but, in some cases, from the schools as well.

But where does the responsibility lie for preventing and addressing concussions, no matter what sport (and at what age) the athletes are playing?

Concussion diagnoses increased 43 percent from 2010 through 2015 in the U.S.

Blue Cross Blue Shield this week released a new report showing that concussion diagnoses increased 43 percent from 2010 through 2015 in the U.S. They spiked 71 percent specifically among patients ages 10 through 19 during the same time period.

For this age group, fall is the peak concussion season, with most of the diagnoses happening among young males. Concussion diagnoses for young men in the fall are nearly double those of young females, the report showed.

But females actually suffer higher overall rates of concussions, take longer to recover, and are often more severely impacted due to hormonal differences, another new report this week highlights.

Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Typical symptoms include headaches and dizziness and can last for weeks, sometimes months after the concussion.
  • Females ages 20 through 64 accounted for 61.3 percent of all post-concussion syndrome diagnoses, compared to 38.7 percent for males.
Source: http://www.bcbs.com

The Women’s Sports Safety Initiative (WSSI), a special project of Silicon Valley Community Foundation in California, is piggybacking off the BCBS study with a report of its own. It’s part of an effort to raise awareness about the facts.

“We want all athletes, including women and girls, to be able to safely play the sports they love,” said Mary Hayashi, project director of WSSI. “With more research on why women and girls suffer concussions more than their male counterparts in similar sports and more guidelines to better identify and safely treat concussions, we can better ensure the safety of all athletes from sports-related concussions,” she told LifeZette.

Due to the role hormones play in the female body, women often experience concussions differently than men. Female athletes have not received the same attention as males in research and policy initiatives, WSSI believes. So female athletes are still not fully aware of their unique needs and how to prevent and recover from concussions.

Related: Youth Football’s Most Dangerous Drill

The organization wants more research and more guidelines — including concussion-recognition training for coaches — about detection and management of the condition among women. It also wants to collect better data on trends.

While all of these resources are built and infrastructures put in place, it's mostly up to parents and kids to be aware of the severity of sports-related concussions and take immediate action in the event of one. Any player suspected of a concussion should be removed from the activity immediately and a personalized treatment plan should be discussed with a health care professional, including when the athlete can return to play and how best to manage symptoms.

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