While the predominant conversations about concussions and CTE in sports have centered on men’s American football, research shows that only talking about concussions when they affect male football players is not enough. In sports where girls and boys have the same rules and equipment, like soccer and basketball, girls are more likely to sustain concussions during play.
At a congressional hearing on Friday, epidemiologist Dawn Comstock told a subcommittee that a study on concussions in girls versus boys in high school soccer found that the young women were one and a half times more likely to get a concussion than the young men. In a separate survey of 207 young men and women by sports physician Shannon Bauman, the question of, “Are women just more likely to report their pain than men?” was squashed fairly head on — no pun intended. From FiveThirtyEight:
Bauman said concussions were often more severe in girls and women — she found differences not only in subjective reported symptoms but also in objective cognitive and visual symptoms that doctors noted during physical exams. Bauman counted objective physical signs of concussions such as trouble maintaining one’s balance and vision problems, and female patients had an average of 4.5 of them, compared with 3.6 for males. “Females are reporting more symptoms, but they’re also objectively having more physiological signs of concussion,” Bauman said.
And if concussions are now on the table in the discussion of women’s participation in sports, the next logical question is whether these traumas lead to a greater likelihood of CTE in female athletes, as well. Iconic women’s soccer star Brandi Chastain is one of several women athletes who have vowed to donate their brains to CTE research, so it’s possible we’ll get closer to answers in the far-off future.