Does Concussion Impact Men, Women Differently?

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Women who have had a history of at least one concussion do not score lower on computerized cognitive baseline testing.
Women who have had a history of at least one concussion do not score lower on computerized cognitive baseline testing.

With all of the controversy surrounding concussions in youth soccer, some may question what this means for men and women athletes -- and if concussion impacts men and women differently.

A report, which was presented this month at the Sports Concussion Conference, revealed that even though women may experience greater symptoms and poorer cognitive performance at preseason testing, a single previous concussive event and history of concussion does not impair one gender more than the other.

Researchers examined 148 college athletes (45% were female, 51% played a contact sport and 24% had experienced a concussion) from 11 sports at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Participants were given several learning and processing tests to measure brain abilities.

Women who have had a history of at least one concussion did not score lower on computerized cognitive baseline testing. All women regardless of concussion history, had greater symptoms, symptom severity and poorer cognitive performance than men at baseline, the study found.

"The current findings reiterate the importance of baseline testing," said study author Kathryn L. O'Connor of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Baseline testing is recommended so that each individual can serve as their own control. If an athlete's performance pre-concussion is unknown it would be difficult to determine whether post-injury changers and solely related to concussive injury."

On average women reported having 1.5 more symptoms and scored three points higher on symptom severity than men. Women were slower to react than men on clinical reaction time task, and they also scored lower than men on cognitive tasks assessing processing speed, attention and working memory.

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