What Is The Cause of the Gender Gap in Concussions


Source: Dirk Hansen

While almost all of the coverage about traumatic brain injury lately seems to focus on well-paid adult males, there are many more young men and women suffering concussions during competitive sports.

Women have been a steadily increasing part of the athletic world, and these young women are also suffering a significant number of the brain injuries on the field. When you compare the data between men and women in sports, it becomes clear: women suffer way more concussions than men in sports.

As Philly.com explains, no one knows for sure why there is a large discrepancy between male and female concussion rates. Most likely, there is no one reason, but experts have cited a couple factors that may play a part.

One of the most likely contributions to the gender difference in concussion rates is the differing of the musculature in the cervical spine as well as less developed neck muscles. Studies have shown that neck size and strength appears to play a large role in determining concussions rates, and the comparatively weaker neck muscles in women may be causing less head stability in females during an impact or fall.

Some believe that hormonal cycles and differences in women could have a potential effect as well as possible differences in core strength between genders. How these hormonal differences contribute isn’t well explained or tested, but it is possible chemical differences in the body could increase of decrease one’s propensity for brain injury.

It is also possible the causes of the concussion gap may not be strictly anatomical. Some researchers suggest female athletes are more likely to self-report symptoms than male counterparts. Philly.com infers this difference would likely be due to greater recognition of the risks of concussion, but it could also possibly relate the the differences in symptoms men and women experience.

Women’s concussion symptoms seem to be more extreme than males’, and they seem to last longer than women. More significant symptoms means a player is less likely to try to “play through the pain” or hide symptoms from coaches and health staff. Along with the health gap, it also appears that younger women are prone to less successful recoveries than older females, which means men and women’s concussion experiences are at least similar in that way.

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