Thursday, 10 May 2012 14:02

Written by  Michigan State University

EAST LANSING, Mich. — New research out of Michigan State University reveals female athletes and younger athletes take longer to recover from concussions, findings that call for physicians and athletic trainers to take sex and age into account when dealing with the injury.

The study, led by Tracey Covassin of MSU’s Department of Kinesiology, found females performed worse than males on visual memory tests and reported more symptoms postconcussion.

Additionally, high school athletes performed worse than college athletes on verbal and visual memory tests, and some of the younger athletes still were impaired up to two weeks after their injuries.

“While previous research suggests younger athletes and females may take longer to recover from a concussion, little was known about the interactive effects of age and sex on symptoms, cognitive testing and postural stability,” said Covassin, a certified athletic trainer at MSU.

“This study confirms that age and sex have an impact on recovery, and future research should focus on developing treatments tailored to those differences.”

The research funded by a two-year grant from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, appears in the current edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Between 2001 and 2005, federal statistics reveal more than 150,000 sport-related concussions occurred among youth ages 14 to 19. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as current statistics reflects only concussions that involved visits to the emergency departments.

The study led by Covassin looked at nearly 300 concussed athletes from multiple states over two years. All of the athletes had previously completed a baseline test before taking three different postconcussion tests, the same ones used in professional sports, after being injured.

When it comes to sex differences, Covassin – who has worked with thousands of young athletes across mid-Michigan since coming to MSU in 2005 – said what often is needed most is simple education.

“We need to raise awareness that yes, female athletes do get concussions,” she said. “Too often, when we speak with parents and coaches, they overlook the fact that in comparable sports, females are concussed more than males.”

Coupled with the fact that high school athletes take longer to recover than collegiate athletes, Covassin said the study reveals a real potential danger to younger athletes by not fully recovering after a concussion.

“Younger athletes appear more at risk for second-impact syndrome, where a second concussion can come with more severe symptoms,” she said. “While it is rare, there is a serious risk for brain damage, and the risk is heightened when athletes are coming back before they heal.”

The next steps, Covassin said, are to investigate sex and age differences at the youth sport level and whether treatment options needed to be tailored for an athlete’s age.

“If we can develop treatments that speak directly to sex and age, I think we can better protect athletes from the long-term side effects of concussions,” she said.

The full article appears at http://bit.ly/IN4Yc4.

The 2-year study included three elements; computerized neurocognitive testing using the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT), balance testing utilizing the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), and a Post-Concussions Symptom Scale (PCSS).

The 296 athletes enrolled in the study completed the ImPACT and BESS baseline testing and if a concussion was sustained they were tested again at 2,7, and 14 days after the injury occurred.  They completed the balance test 1,2 and 3 days post-injury.

The results of the study were:

– female athletes scored worse than male athletes on visual memory; females also reported more symptoms

– high school athletes scored worse than college athletes on verbal and visual memory

– high school athletes were still impaired on verbal memory 7 days post-concussion compared to college athletes

- high school male athletes scored worse on the BESS than college male athletes

– college female athletes scored worse on the BESS than high school female athletes

Researchers state further studies should develop and assess interventions tailored to age and sex differences and include younger participants.


Source:  Michigan State University — May 9, 2012

Am J Sports Med. 2012 Apr 26. [Epub ahead of print]; The Role of Age and Sex in Symptoms, Neurocognitive Performance, and Postural Stability in Athletes After Concussion;
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2 Responses to Girls & young athletes more severe Concussions

  1. XAVI says:

    As a high school oficifal I have seen the evolution of concern over concussions, and rightly so over the last several years. A release was just sent out 2 days ago by the PIAA, the governing body for school sports in PA. It itemized the rules to be followed if an athlete shows any signs of concussion at all. He/she may not re-enter the game unless a doctor (not a trainer) is on staff at the game and authorizes it. In other words that athlete is pretty much done if the the oficifal feels so. I believe this is the right approach. In my 39 years of officiating I’ve seen some serious head injuries that were not treated with the same caution and could have resulted in tragedies. When I was a football player years ago I suffered several concussions, and went back in the game. I remember that feeling, and it was very unpleasant, but I did what the coach told me to do. This is why informed adults need to be in charge of situations like this, because the athletes will do whatever the coach instructs.

  2. CAPP says:

    I completely agree with you.