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Concussions in Women

University of Virginia

A new study from the University of Virginia suggests female athletes are more likely to suffer concussions than men, and recovery could take longer.

Men suffer more concussions than women, because they play rough sports like football and rugby, but neuropsychologist Donna Broshek says females are actually at greater risk when playing similar sports like baseball and softball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer.

"Women do tend to get more concussions in similar sports,” she concludes. 

Broshek directs the neurocognitive assessment lab at the University of Virginia.  She reviewed 160 published studies on concussion in search of differences between men and women and found one linking hormones to a quicker recovery.

“They really looked at which particular phase of the menstrual cycle the woman was in and found that that was different, and so hormone supplementation could potentially down the road help with concussion treatment for women,” she concludes.

In the mean time, she says, women may suffer more symptoms than men:  headache, feeling dazed or confused, trouble with balance, coordination, dizziness.

"Everything the brain does can be disrupted.  It’s a very uncomfortable and disorienting feeling,” Broshek says.

And recovery could take longer.  That’s why Broshek feels it’s important that all athletes who suffer a concussion be examined by an expert who understands that recovery varies greatly from one patient to the next, and no one should go back to sports before he or she has fully healed.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief