FRIDAY May 18, 2012 — Female athletes take longer to recover from concussions, a new study says.
Young athletes also have longer recovery times. The findings show that doctors and athletic trainers need to take gender and age into account when treating patients with concussions, said researchers from Michigan State University.
The researchers studied data from nearly 300 athletes in the United States who suffered concussions, all of whom had completed a baseline test prior to their head injury and took three different post-concussion tests.
Compared to males, females performed worse on post-concussion visual memory tests and reported more concussion symptoms. The researchers also found that high school athletes did worse than college athletes on verbal and visual memory tests. Some of the high school athletes still showed mental impairment up to two weeks after the injury.
“While previous research suggests younger athletes and females may take longer to recover from a concussion, little was known about the interactive effects of age and sex on symptoms, cognitive testing and postural stability,” study leader Tracey Covassin, a certified athletic trainer at Michigan State, said in a university news release. “This study confirms that age and sex have an impact on recovery, and future research should focus on developing treatments tailored to those differences.”
The study appeared May 8 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
“We need to raise awareness that female athletes do get concussions,” she said. “Too often, when we speak with parents and coaches, they overlook the fact that in comparable sports, females are concussed more than males.”
Covassin also said the study points out a potential danger to younger athletes who resume play before they’re fully recovered from a concussion.
“Younger athletes appear more at risk for second-impact syndrome, where a second concussion can come with more severe symptoms,” she said. “While it is rare, there is a serious risk for brain damage, and the risk is heightened when athletes are coming back before they heal.”