More Confirmation of Age/Sex Differences

The difference between male and females has been known for a little while as the females tend to show more cognitive issues and in research have shown to be slower at recovering.  Also known but for some reason discounted is the age aspect; it would be logical to expect a developing brain to struggle more with brain trauma.  Reuters wrote up an article about the recent research;

Female and high school athletes may need more time to recover from a concussion than their male or college counterparts, according to a U.S. study that comes amid rising concern about concussions in young athletes.

Researchers, whose report appeared in the American Journal of Sports medicine, found that of 222 young athletes who suffered a concussion, female athletes tended to have more symptoms than males. They also scored lower on tests of “visual memory” – the ability to recall information about something they’d seen.

Meanwhile, high school athletes fared worse on memory tests than college players, and typically took longer to improve.

For parents, coaches and athletes, the key message is to have patience with concussion recovery, said lead researcher Tracey Covassin, an assistant professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Research like this will now begin to be shown to the world, as the research and money has ramped up over the past 3-4 years making longevity and high volume studies available.  The simple moral of the story is; take plenty of time to recover before returning.  One or two games is better than a semester or year.


14 thoughts on “More Confirmation of Age/Sex Differences

  1. joe bloggs May 18, 2012 / 10:45

    Actually the gender differences were identified by UVA researchers led by Donna Broshek in 2004. No one was terribly interested but the work should be credited.

    • A Concerned Mom May 18, 2012 / 11:09

      Thank you for commenting here, you bring a wealth of knowledge and historical background.

      I would like to see more information about the recovery times for children in the 6 to 12 years-old range. The recovery ranges established for older athletes may be setting up unrealistic expectations for younger children. The other issues I would like to see addressed more pertain to plasticity versus developmental delays following TBI in younger children (are their brains able to adapt better, or is stunted development more common, and do these factors generally only come into play with more severe TBIs and not mTBIs or concussions).

      • joe bloggs May 18, 2012 / 11:19

        Track down work by Dr. Flaura Winston at CHOP in Philadelphia. A real star.

      • A Concerned Mom May 18, 2012 / 11:43

        Thank you. While looking for her work, I came across a little blurb on biomechanics and car accidents that I think could actually apply to youth tackle football (even in the absense of head to head or head to playing surface impacts):

        “Head and Spinal Kinematics of Pediatric Volunteers and Comparison to ATD Response. Using a novel low-speed volunteer sled system, the kinematics of the head and spine of unrestrained child human volunteers were quantified in low speed frontal crashes and compared to adults. Results show children demonstrate greater forward movement, head rotation, and spinal flexion than adults. Work is now being repeated for lateral and oblique impacts with a focus on understanding how the kinematics are related to the muscle activity that occurs during a crash event. In both studies, the human volunteer data is being compared to several age and size appropriate crash test dummies to quantify differences in dynamic response.”

  2. A Concerned Mom May 19, 2012 / 20:00

    Interesting segment on New Hampshire Public Radio – first caller complains that the government might as well say that you have to remove athletes with a stubbed toe, etc., a mom calls and shares a story of her daugher’s concussions in basketball (I believe 2 within 6 months) and the aggressiveness in sports …

    “New research finds that younger athletes are more susceptible to head injury than once thought, take longer to recover, and are more at risk for suffering second concussions. Now, New Hampshire may join a growing list of states asking coaches and trainers to monitor these injuries more closely. We talk with experts on head trauma in youth sports.


    Dr. William Storo: Pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pediatrics. He will be presenting at the Concussion Awareness program co-sponsored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Concord and the Concord Family YMCA on May 22nd.

    Kevin O’Brien: Athletic Director for Merrimack High School and Division 2 President of the NH Athletic Association.

    We’ll also hear from:

    Matt Houde: Democratic State Senator and primary sponsor of SB 402, which would require high school athletes to be pulled from play if a concussion is suspected.”

  3. A Concerned Mom May 20, 2012 / 06:01

    Is it normal to clear teens before they’ve been back to a full school work-load for some time? Perhaps I read the article incorrectly, but it sounds as if this teenager was cleared while she was still only attending three classes per day.

    T”instman, a goalkeeper who has suffered three concussions, didn’t look at Carr when he began speaking.

    “I think you look good,” Carr said. “You’re ready to go back out. How does that sound?””

    “If Tinstman, 17, has another concussion, Carr will advise her to stop playing soccer.”

    “Since her last concussion, Tinstman has taken Docosahexaenoic acid, Dopamine and ADHD medication.”

    “Tinstman missed the majority of her schoolwork during her four-month rehab. Even now, she attends just three classes each day. Tinstman said life became unbearable at times. Not only was soccer gone, but her whole lifestyle changed.”

    • Educator Mom May 29, 2012 / 20:48

      I read the same things as you did in this article. My question is this…did the athlete is experiencing cognitive symptoms that are interfering with school work, how can they be declared “symptom free” and able to return to play. And if they are taking medication to mitigate the symptoms, they are still not “symptom free”. The problem I see in this article is that a P.A. is making the decision, not a medical professional/neurologist who specializes in TBI in athletes. I understand that life becomes unbearable at times. During this recovery time, student athletes lose the sport they love and often lose their social group as a result. Friends and teammates mean well but most lose interest as time moves on. Student athletes also find that what once may have come easy in school, is now a struggle. They may be lucky enough to find a school staff that understands and supports them but in most situations, that is not the case.

      Yes, this time in the young athletes life can be unbearable. But what may be even more unbearable, is that young athlete who will never reach their full potential. As they continue to put their head in the game before their brain has healed from the last injury, the damage and the long lasting effects mount. Maybe they once would have found a cure to cancer but now they cannot concentrate long enough without a debilitating headache. Maybe they would have been the next Mozart or John Williams, but now the sound is is more than they can bear. Those “maybe’s” haunt me as I look into the faces of student in my classes who I know have experienced a concussion, still have headaches, are already back on the field playing. And those “maybe’s” certainly haunt me as I look into the frustrated eyes of my own child.

      • A Concerned Mom May 30, 2012 / 07:34

        I certainly recognize that I’m not an expert, but after everything I’ve read the past few months, I can’t help but be concerned that youth athletes aren’t always having their concussions managed as conservatively as they should be. What’s going to happen to some of these kids who are allowed to sustain three or more concussions in their youth if they’re exposed to other trauma later in life (it should be expected that a certain percentage will go into the military, continue to play sports or get into car or other accidents – to me it just seems like kids are being exposed to way too much brain trauma at young ages as youth sports are currently played).

        If you haven’t seen it already, the Sen Sentinel had some really good youth concussion coverage this past weekend. Diana Brett shared her son’s story in “Mom’s Mission Personalizes Dangers of Concussion to Young Athletes.” She donated her son’s brain to SLI’s brain bank about a year ago, but no findings have been released yet.

  4. A Concerned Mom May 20, 2012 / 06:22

    A female soccer player shares her story of multiple concussions – went to hospital 8 times – told to quit soccer after sustaining 3 concussion in one year – notices some subtle difficulties with speech patterns.

  5. A Concerned Mom May 21, 2012 / 09:39

    “Mary Donohue cannot forget the sight of her son Ryan crouched on the floor in pain because of the sound of the blender. He missed most of the fifth grade and his balance was off – all because of a concussion.”

    “Ryan Donohue, 12, suffered two concussions in quick succession while playing basketball. It took him a year and a half to recover.

    “It was awful, he couldn’t watch TV, he couldn’t read, he couldn’t play video games, and he was out of school,” his mother said.”

    It’s good to have a baseline, but it seems like maybe a little too much faith is being placed on what those tests can actually do (question whether they are sensitive enough to do everything some people claim they do):

    “The test measures visual and verbal memory and reaction times. It is taken before the athlete’s season begins, and then, if a concussion is sustained, the test is retaken and used to measure the severity of the injury, the part of the brain affected and the progress of recovery.”

  6. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP, Licensed Psychologist May 23, 2012 / 01:08

    The test measures visual and verbal memory and reaction times. It is taken before the athlete’s season begins, and then, if a concussion is sustained, the test is retaken and used to measure the severity of the injury, the part of the brain affected and the progress of recovery.


    A Sad Misnomer… the sensitivity of this test to be able to “measure the severity of the injury, the part of the brain affected and the progress of recovery”

    …and gross misinformation provided in the above quote from the online SRC article….the brain performs many more tasks than what is allegedly being measured by this and apparently other ‘similar’ concussion / brain injury screening devices…

    ALL parts of the brain and corresponding brain functions / tasks ARE NOT being measured by this screening device…ONLY visual and verbal memory and reaction times are CLAIMED to be measured.

    So much for the validity and reliability of screening instruments that do not address all possible concussion / brain injury symptoms and focus on so-called “common symptoms…”

    Sadly these type of screening devices provide a false sense of security that ”all is well with the brain” when an athlete obtains an ”ok” score on this device and deemed ”recovered”…as it is my understanding that these instruments are not designed to assess ALL possible concussion / brain injury symptoms.

  7. A Concerned Mom May 25, 2012 / 20:20

    Good article touching on concussion statistics, girls and younger athletes, and
    the Concussion Recognition and Response App.

    “The New York Times recently reported a story about about a female athlete, who was kicked in the head during a high school soccer game and received cuts and bruises to her face. Although she received care for her injuries in the emergency room, no one thought about the possibility of a concussion until a few weeks later when she collided with another player during a game and fell to the ground in a seizure.”

    “I plugged in the basic details provided in the concussion case from the New York Times article, and with just that small amount of information, the app affirmed that a concussion was suspected. It further advised that the athlete should be removed from the game immediately and have participation restricted for the rest of the day.

    The following appropriate recommendations were also provided:

    ■Notify the parent or guardian
    ■Seek further medical evaluation
    ■Observe the affected individual for 24 hours
    ■Record symptoms
    ■Post concussion instructions at home and school
    ■Seek clearance from a health care professional before allowing the athlete to resume participation in the sport.”

  8. reACT Canada May 28, 2012 / 20:23

    A very interesting article can be found here showing differences between young Male and Female athletes. The most interesting findings are that when it comes to similar non-contact sports (i.e. soccer, basketball, baseball), girls show a significant increase in concussions versus boys… Presently I am managing mostly young female basketball players for concussions, so this article really hits home. Please read this article and let’s discuss: Please visit my website at Check us out.

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