Concussions in Girls May be More Common, More Severe

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Both boys and girls may experience concussions while playing sports or engaging in other activities. But several new studies indicate that when girls receive a concussion, they may have more severe symptoms, suffer more damage, and need more time to heal.

One recent study tracked 549 patients – both boys and girls – who were treated at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s pediatric concussion clinic. The study found that the girls reported more severe symptoms than the boys, and that they needed 22 more days to recover from their concussions, on average, than the boys.

For many years, the causes, symptoms, and effects of concussions on young athletes were poorly understood. Recent research has helped shed light on the harm these traumatic brain injuries can cause, and it has led to coaches, players, and parents taking all blows to the head more seriously and watching carefully for symptoms of concussion.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury typically caused by a blow to the head. A mild concussion causes temporary interference with ordinary cognitive functions, while a more serious concussion can cause long-lasting or even permanent damage. Symptoms of concussion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache or pain in the face, head, or neck
  • Difficulty with memory, mood, or concentration
  • Difficulty listening or carrying out cognitive tasks that are usually simple, like mental arithmetic or remembering place names
  • Feeling fatigued, “spaced out,” or like something is “not quite right”

Studies have also noted that it takes longer to recover from concussions than previously believed – whether the patient is male or female. The commonly-cited seven to ten days for recovery may be far too short, according to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In their study, the average time to recovery was 44 days, or nearly two months, rather than one week.

Research in the last several years has also led to more nuanced insight into concussion and a greater movement to prevent and treat the injuries. PINK Concussions, founded in 2013, is an organization focusing on the effects of concussions in women. Its founder, Katherine Snedaker, started the project after her son suffered several concussions as a sixth grader. Snedaker is a survivor of multiple concussions herself.