As the intensity of women's sports increases, coaches, officials and players are noticing an upswing in the number of concussions reported among female players. Studies show that female athletes suffer from more concussions than their male peers in comparable sports. But why? That's the question health experts are scrambling to answer.
In study after study, researchers are coming to the same conclusion: girls are more likely to suffer concussions than boys. A study of high school soccer players found that from 2005 to 2014, 4.5 girls out of every 10,000 suffered from a concussion compared to 2.8 of 10,000 boys. In girls' basketball, the concussion rate is three times that reported in boys' basketball. Similar trends have been found in other sports such as softball, field hockey and ice hockey.
Theories abound on why girls would be more susceptible to concussions than their male peers. Some experts cite gender differences — such as weaker neck muscles or the different combination of hormones that men and women have in their brains — that may make women more likely to get a concussion. Others think that coaches, players, and trainers may be more likely to attribute concussion symptoms such as migraines and personality changes to menstrual cycles rather than sports injuries. It's also possible that females are just more likely to report injuries and concussion-related symptoms, although other studies have shown that — similar to boys — girls tend to stay in the game despite worrying symptoms.
No matter the reason, one thing that everyone can agree on is that female athletes — along with their coaches and parents — need concussion education and prevention guidelines now, so that they can stay safe, healthy, and in the game.