Men Vs. Women on Head Concussions

Neurocognitive ability post concussion not impacted by gender

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The number of women participating in sports grew from 1.9 million to 3.2 million between 1990 and 2010. With an increase of participation in sports comes an increase in injuries, including concussion, and a need to understand its effects.

Previous research has shown that women experience concussions differently than men, but is this really true?

A recent study investigated whether gender makes a difference on mental functioning after a sports related concussion.

This research study showed that there was no difference between females and males in post-concussion neuro-cognitive scores.

"Seek medical care for all head injuries"

Researchers from V-ScoRe, Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Research at Vanderbilt University Center examined 40 male and 40 female high school soccer players with concussion. The patients were closely matched for age, medical history, education and number of prior concussions.

Any difference caused by the nature of the sport played was eliminated because the students were all injured playing the same sport.

The study participants were evaluated using the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) scale before and after concussion. ImPACT includes a 22 item post concussion symptom scale and six neuro-cognitive tests that measure verbal memory, visual memory, processing speed, reaction time and impulse control.

Test scores for men and women were compared and found not to be significantly different. The only difference found was that females reported a larger number of symptoms post-concussion.

These results disagree with current literature that says women experience more neuro-cognitive impairments than men after a concussion.

This research is important because it suggests there is no need to treat concussions differently based on gender.

However, Daniel Clearfield, DO, a sports medicine doctor and an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of North Texas Health Science Center is hesitant to conclude that there is no gender difference in head concussions. He warns against transferring these results to other sports.

"Whether this data can be extrapolated to all athletics, especially other sports where the individual is susceptible to high impact head injury, is to be determined," said Dr. Clearfield.

Dr. Clearfield also suggests evaluation by a neuropsychologist. "While ImPACT is a great and easily accessible online neurocognitive testing program, an evaluation by a neuropsychologist would likely result in a more accurate reflection of whether there is a true gender difference in post-concussion neurocognition in this athletic subgroup," said Dr. Clearfield.

Future research will explore what factors like age, sleep, symptoms and history of attention deficit disorder have on concussion.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

One author owns stock in ImPACT Appication, the company that makes the software used in testing. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 28, 2012
Last Updated:
November 7, 2012