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Female athletes may face higher risk of concussion

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Women are more likely than men to have a sports-related concussion, according to a long-term study that involved more than 1,000 athletes.

Between 2000 and 2014, researchers at Columbia University in New York recruited 822 men and 381 women who participated in sports like football, basketball and American football. Participants took tests to measure their thinking skills and processing speed before and after a concussion. The researchers also tracked symptoms and when participants returned to play after a concussion, the American Academy of Neurology reported.

Co-author Dr James Noble described sports-related concussion as a “significant public health problem” and pointed out that research has typically focused on male athletes.

“Studies comparing male and female college athletes have often been limited in size and had incomplete follow-ups,” he added.

Over the course of this study, 228 athletes suffered at least one concussion during their college career: 88 women, or 23%, and 140 men, or 17%. Women were 50% more likely to have a concussion than men, the researchers said.

Athletes who had suffered a previous concussion were three times more likely to have another concussion than those who had never had a concussion.

Focusing on the gender comparable sports of football and basketball also showed that women were more likely to suffer a concussion.

“It is unclear why women appear to be at higher risk for sports-related concussions than men,” Dr Noble said. “The findings from this study highlight the need for more research on the gender differences in concussion.”

Although women appear to be more susceptible to concussions, the study indicated that they recover from the injury just as quickly as men. The average return-to-play time was 10 days for both men and women.

The male and female athletes also had similar symptoms following a concussion, except when it came to amnesia and insomnia. The study found that 44% of men experienced amnesia versus 31% of women, and 42% of women had insomnia compared with 29% of men.

The findings of the study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston next month.

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