In a literature review of 160 papers, published in October in the journal Clinics in Sports Medicine, UVA researchers studied data from a range of sports played by male and female high school and college athletes—including soccer, basketball and ice hockey.
They found that female athletes had, on average, higher rates of concussion than did male athletes. Similarly, the female athletes also reported more symptoms than male athletes.
However, “we don’t know why,” notes lead author Jacob Resch of the Curry School’s kinesiology program. Nor is it known whether female athletes take longer to recover from concussions than their male counterparts. In fact, despite increasing attention to and concern about concussions in all athletes—and major public attention in particular on concussions in football players—much still remains uncertain about these injuries, including how they occur, how best to diagnose them, what the physiological consequences are and how full clinical recovery can be determined.
Most important, the study’s authors stressed, any one athlete may not fit the “average” profile, so concussion management always needs to be individualized to each athlete. While there is evidence that female athletes are more likely to experience concussion and to report more symptoms than male athletes, or may take longer to recover, the authors caution that studies have shown a wide range of variability among individual athletes.