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13-05-2012 | Physical rehabilitation | Article

Girls and younger athletes take longer to recover from concussions

Abstract

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MedWire News: Researchers say that gender and age should be taken into account when dealing with sports-related head injury in young people, as girls and younger athletes take longer to recover from concussion than boys and older athletes.

"While previous research suggests younger athletes and females may take longer to recover from a concussion, little was known about the interactive effects of age and sex on symptoms, cognitive testing and postural stability," said study author Tracey Covassin (Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA) in a press statement.

"This study confirms that age and sex have an impact on recovery, and future research should focus on developing treatments tailored to those differences."

Covassin and colleagues analyzed data from 222 young people (157 male; 65 female), aged 14 to 25 years, (150 in high school; 72 in college) who had sustained a sports-related concussion and been enrolled in a 2-year multistate follow-up study.

The participants completed the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT) and Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) at enrollment and 2, 7, and 14 days after their head injury. They also completed the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) 1, 2, and 3 days after sustaining concussion.

Female athletes scored significantly worse than male athletes both on visual memory tests (mean score of 65.1 vs 70.1% at all time points) and total number of postconcussive symptoms (mean number of symptoms of 14.4 vs 10.1).

"We need to raise awareness that yes, female athletes do get concussions," said Covassin. "Too often, when we speak with parents and coaches, they overlook the fact that in comparable sports, females are concussed more than males."

High school students (mean age 15.5 years) performed worse than college students (mean age 19.2 years) on both verbal and visual memory tests after concussion with a mean score for all time points of 78.8% versus 82.7% and 65.8% versus 69.4%, respectively.

Regarding BESS scores, male high school athletes scored worse than male college athletes with mean scores of 18.8 and 13.0, respectively. Conversely, female college athletes scored worse than female high school athletes with mean scores of 21.1 and 16.9, respectively.

"If we can develop treatments that speak directly to sex and age, I think we can better protect athletes from the long-term side effects of concussions," concluded Covassin in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

By Helen Albert

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