Teenage girls face double the risk of concussion playing soccer compared to teenage boys in the same sport, according to a new study.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday. The research compared data from 40,000 female high school players in Michigan with that from a similar number of male soccer players. According to the study, girls were 1.5 times less likely to be substituted if they suffered a potentional concussion.
Authors of the study said it was inconclusive as to whether girls were better at reporting symptoms than their male counterparts, but they did note some physiological differences between male and female players.
“Female soccer athletes have lower neck strength and girth compared with male athletes,” the paper notes, according to The Guardian, “with these variables inversely associated with linear and rotational head acceleration after soccer ball heading.”
“As result of anthropometric and brain microstructural differences between the sexes, female athletes may be at greater risk than male athletes of diffuse axonal injury, the principal pathology underlying concussion.”
The most common cause of concussion in females was contact with an object, such as a ball, while the most common cause of concussion in males was contact with another person.
“Given we know the importance of immediate removal from play for any athlete with suspected concussion, it is notable that ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ appears more likely to happen for boys than girls,” said senior author of the study, Professor Willie Stewart. “This, together with the finding that mechanism of injury appears different between boys and girls, suggests that there might be value in sex-specific approaches to concussion education and management in this age group.”
Dr Abigail Bretzin, lead author of the new study, said it was the first to look in such detail into concussion management and outcomes in teenage soccer players. “Our findings add to research showing that female athletes are at increased concussion risk compared to male athletes, and highlight the importance of sex-specific research in this field,” she said.