It sounds almost hysterical at first glance, but a new study reports that how well a woman recovers from a concussion can depend on the time of the month. The researchers found that women who suffered a traumatic brain injury during the two weeks leading up to their period (the premenstrual phase) faced a slower recovery and worse health after a month. Women injured in the two weeks following their period fared better, as well as women taking birth control pills.
The University of Rochester published their study in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, potentially confirming what women and doctors have anecdotally known for years. Medical Xpress does note that the effect is most pronounced in women of childbearing age; girls who have not begun having their period and post-menopausal women had recoveries similar to men.
While little research has been done to explain why such differences occur, senior author of the study Jeffrey J. Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H. believes that sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are playing a role. It should be mentioned trials are currently underway to test the efficacy of using progesterone to slow the onset of brain secondary brain damage following mild to severe traumatic brain injury.
“I don’t think doctors consider menstrual history when evaluating a patient after a concussion, but maybe we should,” noted Bazarian, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry who treats patients and conducts research on traumatic brain injury and long-term outcomes among athletes. “By taking into account the stage of their cycle at the time of injury we could better identify patients who might need more aggressive monitoring or treatment. It would also allow us to counsel women that they’re more – or less – likely to feel poorly because of their menstrual phase.”
The team also predicted that women taking birth control pills containing synthetic hormones which mimic the effects of progesterone would have similar outcomes to women injured in the low progesterone phase of their cycle. In their findings, the two groups showed no difference in outcomes.
“Women who are very athletic get several benefits from the pill; it protects their bones and keeps their periods predictable,” noted study co-author Kathleen M. Hoeger, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “If larger studies confirm our data, this could be one more way in which the pill is helpful in athletic women, especially women who participate in sports like soccer that present lots of opportunities for head injuries.”