Women athletes have more concussions than men, new study shows

Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:04pm EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Olympic figure skating champion Sarah Hughes vividly recalls falling on her head in practice and suffering her first concussion.

"They carried me off the rink and then I threw up," the 29-year-old Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion said, her deep blues eyes widening. "We knew something was wrong. It was really, really scary. Incredibly frightening. I was just 11."

While men's contact sports like football and ice hockey are most associated with concussions, women actually have them much more often than men, said Dr. Robert Stevens, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who specializes in brain injury.

He also said new studies suggest the concussion symptoms in women are also more acute than those suffered by men.

"The incidence of concussions in sports is higher in women than in men, possibly two times higher," he said, adding that concussions in women tend to be "more severe" and it takes women longer to recover than men.

Stevens cautioned, however, that results may be skewed by "reporting bias." He said some researchers believe that the number of concussions in men is "vastly underreported" because they want to remain on the field, while women are generally more apt to report a concussion.

The National Football League is expected to pay out about $1 billion when a lawsuit by ex-players who suffered concussion-related brain damage is settled in court. But it's not football that is producing the most concussions.

Percentage-wise, women's soccer and basketball rank the highest in terms of concussion-inducing sports, followed by football and men's soccer, said Stevens.   Continued...