Concussion Rate Among Females Higher than Males
by Samantha Brey, EMS Marketing, and Dave Sherman, Technical Design Solutions Manager
As the sister of two sports-crazed teen boys, I can confirm that getting injured is a common occurrence, and many of these injuries result from hits to the head. My younger brother has had several minor concussions from baseball, soccer, basketball, and other various sports, and he will probably have more in the future.
One of the most common injuries resulting from playing sports is a concussion. In the U.S. alone there are 1.6 – 3.8 million incidents of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in sports and recreation reported each year. A concussion is a mild type of TBI that can be dangerous, even deadly, depending on severity of the damage and how often the head is hit while still recovering.
Many may think that male athletes are to blame for these sizable numbers, but the rate of concussions in females is surprisingly higher than that of males. Though there haven’t been many studies conducted, those that were done have found conclusive evidence to support this fact; out of all the athletes who suffer from concussions, more of them are female than male.
Studies have shown that the sport with the most occurrences of concussions is women’s ice hockey, reporting that an incident results in concussion once every 1100 games or practices. This is three times the rate of concussions in male football players. Females experience more concussions than men in nearly every sport that is played, including soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and softball. In 2005, it was reported in U.S. high school soccer leagues that 29,167 female players suffered from concussions, compared to 20,929 male players. And while there were 12,923 female U.S. high school basketball players who suffered concussions, there were only 3,823 male players.
Some claim that this is because girls aren’t as tough as boys and are more likely to report having concussion symptoms. While, statistically, girls are more concerned for their future health and are therefore more likely to seek help when injured, it has been proven that this is not the reason so many females are concussed.
Head, neck, and muscle sizes are all factors in the damage caused by a blow to the head, and researchers have found that females have weaker and smaller necks in proportion to their heads. This leaves them more susceptible to damage caused by getting hit. Females have also been proven to experience more severe and longer lasting concussion symptoms. A study done on data collected in the past two years proved that concussions are typically more severe in females, who experience an average of 4.5 medically determined symptoms, whereas males averaged 3.6.
Less Protective Equipment in Female Leagues
You might wonder if this sort of evidence inspires female leagues to enforce stricter safety rules than male leagues, but the opposite is true. It is often assumed that males will be more aggressive and will have more injuries, and because of this assumption sports like lacrosse don’t require female players to wear helmets, even though male players are required to. Protective equipment is used much less in many female leagues, despite the fact that these are the leagues where protective equipment should be used more.
So what is being done to combat this problem? Well, the truth is, not much. There isn’t much information out there that emphasizes the dangers of female concussions. There are some, like the Women’s Sports Foundation, who are doing all they can to make the public aware of this information. They hold briefings to inform athletes and medical experts and convince them to join their cause, but more organizations need to get involved.
There is also a new type of a helmet on the market that, instead of covering the whole head, just wraps around the head like a headband. One popular version of this product is called the Halo protective headband, sold by Unequal Technologies. The headband is designed to absorb the impact of a blow, similar to a helmet. Studies have shown that, while this product doesn’t prevent concussions entirely, soccer players are 2.65 times more likely to suffer a concussion when not wearing one.
This headband is slowly but surely gaining popularity, and now there are soccer players from the U.S., Mexico, and Ecuador wearing it. Ali Krieger, a U.S. professional soccer player, wore the Halo protective headband during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. This helped raise concussion awareness, and there have been other female athletes wearing more protective gear. Companies have started taking notice, and more options for concussion protection are becoming available.
Hopefully, with these efforts, information on the dangers of concussions will be spread, and more will be done to protect both female and male athletes, including my brothers.