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Concussions and sports: It's a girl thing, too

August 31, 2012

As summer winds down and a new school year gets underway, this also signals the start of the fall high school sports season in Central Florida.

Across the U.S. there are estimated to be 300,000 sports-related concussions annually. Because the overall number of concussions is highest in high school football players, previous studies have focused on adolescent males that participate in football. However, it is important to realize that over the last decade female participation in sports has exploded.

Recently, there was a story featured on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” about female soccer players and concussions. New studies have shown that female athletes who sustain concussions have more severe symptoms and take longer to recover than their male counterparts. Girls are also at higher risk of sustaining a concussion because many of the sports they play have very little or no protective equipment, unlike boys who participate in high risk sports like football, lacrosse, and ice hockey where protective equipment is required.

Soccer, basketball, and softball are among the highest risk sports for young girls. Concussions most commonly result from direct contact with another player or athlete-playing surface contact (like the ground or a piece of stationary equipment). For parents, coaches, and even athletes themselves education is the key! Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion is most valuable in deciding what to do with an athlete who has sustained a suspicious injury.

Some of the most immediate symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Dizziness or "seeing stars"
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • *Fatigue/tires easily
  • Irritability, crankiness
  • Loss of balance, unsteady walking
Some symptoms of concussions may be immediate or delayed in onset by hours or days after an injury such as:
  • Concentration and memory complaints
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell
If in doubt, sit the athlete out and do not let them return until they can be evaluated by a physician experienced in treating concussions.

It is most important to remember that the younger the athlete the higher at risk they are of developing something called 2nd impact syndrome (brain swelling that can lead to death).  This can occur if a young athlete sustains a second concussion before their brain has had a chance to recover from an initial concussion.

An athlete who is thought to have sustained a concussion should be seen by a physician within three days of the injury. The child should only return to play once cleared by the physician.  Most specialists recommend limited physical and mental exertion during the recovery period.  Limit texting, video games, computer use, watching TV, difficult school work, exams, or possibly even attending school until the child is having no or only minimal symptoms.

For parents, simply having an increased awareness of concussions can help in caring for and preventing future problems in these young athletes. Our Concussion Program is here to meet your child’s needs. We offer comprehensive evaluations including impact cognitive testing, return to play recommendations, access to neuropsychologists when appropriate, physical and vestibular therapies, and Neurosurgical evaluation when needed.  Please contact Level One Sports Medicine at 321-843-4800 for appointments or further information.

For additional information, visit: Concussion overview