Feature

Health scare of the week: Female athletes’ concussions

It’s not just football players who risk lasting brain damage from taking multiple blows to the head.

It’s not just football players who risk lasting brain damage from taking multiple blows to the head. Young female athletes playing sports like soccer and lacrosse may be even more susceptible. Researchers at Michigan State University tested more than 200 high school and college athletes after they endured concussions. They found that female athletes had more symptoms than men did—including headaches, nausea, and dizziness—and also performed worse than concussed men on memory tests. Younger female players also took up to twice as long to recover as older male ones did. The findings complement previous research showing that girls suffer twice as many concussions as boys who play the same sport. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why, but study author Tracey Covassin tells Wired.com that for both teenage boys and girls, the brain is still developing, making it vulnerable to injury and “causing it to take longer to recover.” Among girls, soccer players suffer the most concussions; cheerleaders and volleyball players are also at high risk. “What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions,” says Emerson Hospital physician Bob Cantu, who warns that these brain injuries can affect some young people “for the rest of their lives.” 

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