There’s an old Gatorade commercial where all-star basketball player Michael Jordan faces off with pro women’s soccer champion Mia Hamm in a variety of athletic showdowns to determine, once and for all, whether guys and girls are really equal as far as sports are concerned. The music says it all, featuring a hard-rock version of the old Broadway musical song “Anything You Can Do.” The point of the ad, other than selling the popular sports drink, is that men and women truly are equals when it comes to athletic competitions.
While that might be true, a new study shows that boys and girls have different ways of dealing with concussions. Worse yet, the findings suggest that girls who suffer head injuries that result in concussions tend to suffer worse than boys, with more severe symptoms that last longer.
The study, released recently by Dr. Shayne Fehr of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, found that the 235 girls who participated in the research took over three weeks longer to recover from their concussions than the 314 boys did. As the American Academy of Pediatrics reports, a concussion is any injury that disrupts the brain’s normal function, typically resulting from any collision involving the head and common in contact sports like hockey, soccer and football.
In Fehr’s study all the patients were between the ages of 10 and 18 and were treated between 2010 and 2012. On average, the girls reported their symptoms took about 56 days to completely subside, while the boys said theirs were gone in about 44. Over three-quarters of the injuries were related to sports.
Most people think of concussions only taking about a week to 10 days to get better, but research shows that for younger athletes, it can be far longer than that. Then, there are the post-concussion dealings to worry about. As the Mayo Clinic documents, post-concussion syndrome involves a piling-up of different symptoms like headaches and dizziness that can last for weeks or even months. And the younger the injured person, the greater the chance for serious brain damage down the line.
These latest findings are all in keeping with an NBC News report from two years ago which found that concussions in teen girls’ soccer games were alarmingly on the rise. One doctor even referred to it as a “concussion crisis” and pointed to statistics that showed girls facing sports-induced concussions at a rate of nearly twice as frequent as boys. The worst of it, in addition to soccer, seems to come from the other two sports mentioned above — hockey and football.
So, what’s to be done? For starters, coaches need to be aware of the dangers so they may provide their players with the immediate help they need if they face an injury. On top of that, the athletes should be left in the care of their doctors, not their coaches, when it comes to determining the right time to reenter the game. After all, nothing’s more important than your health.