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Concussions in Females

21 June, 2019


Concussions in Females

Approximate reading time: 3-5 minutes

A hit to the head can seem so innocuous when we don’t lose consciousness. This is the first misconception around concussions. Majority of the time, a concussion occurs without the loss of consciousness. Second misconception is that concussions are a male-dominant condition. Thirdly concussions are purely a sports-injury.

Your grandma falls bending for the remote. Your friend has a lover’s-quarrel black-eye. Your sister a drunken stumble. Your mum misjudges the steps. Your daughter slips from the swings. Concussions don’t just occur from sports.


More concussions in females

Concussions occur more frequently in the ladies. This can be seen in sports without gender specific rules.

Females experience more concussions and more severe symptoms.

There are a number of reasons why it is believed that females are more at risk.

  • More acceleration due to smaller head and neck.
    Instinctively we know that we would rather be involved in a low speed car accident than one on the freeway. This is due to acceleration. The greater the acceleration, the greater the potential injury.
  • Smaller heads means that objects, such as soccer balls, are relatively bigger.
    Following on from the car analogy, we would rather be in the truck, than hit by the truck. 
  • Weaker neck muscles and less neck girth are less able to protect from external force.
  • Different hormonal levels which may be detrimental in the concussion.

Another proposed reason is that females are more likely to take action, seek advice and get diagnosed. This may skew the research data in favour of the ladies.

There can be a lot of pressure on athletes to not get injured for fear of getting dropped from the team or feeling like they have let the team down. This is a problem with under-reporting of concussions. We don’t really know how prevalent concussions really are.


Female concussion symptoms

There are a multitude concussion symptoms. We frequently talk about the physical, psychological and sleep disturbances but rarely do we hear about the hormonal changes after a concussion. 

In addition to the standard concussive symptoms of headaches, dizziness, mood disorders, sleep disturbances and fuzzy head, women can experience changes in their menstrual cycle.

To date, there have been minimal studies on female concussions with the majority of the scientific literature focusing on concussions in male driven sports such as AFL, NFL and NRL. As such a lot of the female specific changes are noted from clinical experience rather than the scientific literature.


Recovery times

Majority of concussions improve over 7 - 10 days requiring rest, monitoring and appropriate advice on activities to avoid and when to reintroduce them.

For others, the concussion lasts longer and requires rehabilitation. Your neuro-rehabilitation therapist will assess whether you are at risk of prolonged symptoms by asking you questions about your past & current health as well as performing a concussion assessment. 

Concussion treatments should involve a holistic approach including:

  • Exertion advice to appropriately rest the brain
  • Home exercises to strengthen the fragile brain function, such as the inner ears (vestibular system)
  • Supplement & dietary advice to decrease inflammation around the brain
  • Neck & shoulder muscle strengthening

We have a virtual clinic with online telehealth consultations for those who can't make it to the Moonee Ponds clinic.


Summary:

  • Females are more likely to sustain a concussion
  • When a female sustains a concussion, she is more likely to experience more symptoms and have a greater severity of those symptoms
  • Female concussion symptoms can vary such as hormonal disturbances

About the Author:

Chiropractor Dr Cassie suffered a concussion shortly before studying Chiropractic Neuro-Rehabilitation. During her studies, she was able to relate the theory and practical applications with her own experience. Prior to opening up Body and Brain Centre, Cassie worked at a purely neurological rehabilitation clinic seeing patients after traumatic brain injuries, stroke and developmental delays for their pains and injuries


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