Concussions in Girls are a Serious Concern
Concussions are a big deal and something that parents need to watch closely. About a year ago, the Washington Post reported on a study by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons that indicated that girls were more likely to have concussions than boys in matched sports. For example, in basketball, about 8% of boys’ injuries were concussion related. Girls’ concussion-related injuries, on the other hand, accounted for nearly 25%. The authors related how they thought girls played sports harder than men. Those efforts then resulted in more injury. The sports, in ranked order, with the most head injuries were: soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, and softball. In addition, concussions are often found in those participating in cheerleading.
In a recent study presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Dr. Fehr, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, discussed the impact of concussions for girls. His findings indicate that girls may suffer longer than boys with a concussion. Often, their symptoms are more severe. In addition, it took girls nearly 56 days to be symptom free, while boys took 34 days. Over 75% of these injuries were sports related, and typical symptoms included headaches, sensitivity to noise and light, and dizziness.
As a dad, I can relate to this material on a personal level. My youngest daughter had several concussions playing basketball, and it was very scary. In addition, I work as a consultant to a rehabilitation hospital. Here, I have witnessed that my female patients have an extended and more difficult time in recovery than my male patients. In my discussion with physician colleagues, the primary reason attributed to this difference is the development of the neck muscles. They are simply less developed in girls. Most importantly, it is critical that parents ensure their daughters do not engage in sports prematurely, because this can be dangerous or even fatal. Unfortunately, if you have a previous concussion, you are at an increased risk for higher injury and damage with the next concussion.
So, what should happen if your daughter gets hit in the head during a game or practice? Players, coaches and parents should know the signs of a potential concussion. A player may pass out or seem dazed but conscious. Warning signs include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, memory loss, nausea or vomiting, headache, blurry vision, light sensitivity, slurred speech, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and trouble with coordination or balance. A suspected concussion should be evaluated by a doctor and a psychologist. If a player’s been hit, they should leave the game. If a parent or another player sees an athlete suffer a head injury that a coach doesn’t see, they should tell the coach right away.
What happens next?
After a concussion, the brain needs rest in order to recover. Without that, the brain can’t recover effectively, and a child or teen could be facing lasting changes. At first, it’s important to let the brain “cool” – no TV, texting, or video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not returning to contact sports for at least four weeks from the date of the concussion. Furthermore, recent data is suggesting it may be closer to two months for girls. After your daughter resumes play, it’s important to try to avoid a reoccurrence.
A colleague, Dr. Susan Davies from the University of Dayton, makes an interesting point that school psychologists can make a valuable contribution to students that suffer from concussions. Most are trained in neuropsychology and can play an important role in evaluating the severity of the concussion, as well as working with the child afterwards in a school setting. School counselors are another resource and can help your child adjust after returning to school.
Dr. Davies has created a YouTube video, with support from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, that is far more comprehensive than this blog. It’s a terrific asset, and I highly recommend that you watch it and share it with your community.
You can find it at: https://youtu.be/BY0tsaYInbI