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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


A survey of the research that has been done on women and concussions has found that female athletes have a higher risk of concussion and report more severe symptoms in comparison with male athletes.

The University of Virginia review was conducted because there have been mixed findings about whether women and girls have differences in concussion incidence and recovery, said senior author Donna Broshek, a neuropsychologist and co-director of U.Va. Health System's Acute Concussion Evaluation Clinic.

Women tend to get more concussions in the sports where there is a male equivalent, Broshek said, such as soccer or basketball.

"The reason women have lower concussion rates overall is because women tend not to play football or, in general, wrestling, or some other sports that have higher concussion risk," Broshek said.

There is also some evidence that female athletes, especially in their teenage years, may have symptoms that last longer. The question has been whether women are genuinely dealing with more severe symptoms or if they are just more likely to report their symptoms, whereas male athletes may not report as readily.

"Women are reporting more symptoms, but there was also evidence that they had objectively more symptoms in terms of cognitive abilities," Broshek said.

She added that it's very important that every athlete's concussion management treatment is personalized.

There are a number of factors that can result in a complicated or slower recovery, including if patients have ADHD or a learning disability; their age; the number of previous concussions they've had; and any other potential health issues.

"You want to make sure that whoever is managing their recovery is really providing individualized care to that athlete," she said.

One interesting new theory coming out in the research is how a woman's hormones - like if she's on birth control pills or where she is in her menstrual cycle - can predict how long it takes her to recover.

"That's a really important area because if we figure out that women at a certain phase of their menstrual are more likely to have a longer (period in which they're symptomatic) or more recovery, that suggests we may be able to administer hormones to help with recovery," Broshek said.

Jacob Resch, a professor in U.Va.'s Curry School of Education, was also an author on the literature review. Broshek's postdoctoral fellow Amanda Rach and Resch's doctoral student Samuel Walton also contributed to the work. 649-6813Twitter: @__KatieOConnor

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April 28, 2018


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