Counting Head Injuries in Female Athletes

Concussions Don’t Discriminate Gender in Youth Sports

A few months ago, a news story circulated about retired US soccer player, Brandi Chastain. She made a statement to the press about her wish to donate her brain for research when she dies. She believes her brain has been concussed multiple times during the 40 years she played soccer. In turn, she’s opening the conversation about head injuries in female athletes during a time when the rest of the country is focused on the concussions of male football players.

It’s easy to think of men’s football, boxing, and hockey as the primary culprits of sport-induced concussions, and ignore the other gender. But the reality is that girls’ sports are just as intense and physical as boys’ sports, therefore the threat of concussions is the same. Some studies, like the one published in the Journal of Athletic Training, have even shown that girls are at a higher risk for concussions when playing sports.

Perhaps part of the reason why the number is higher for girls is that females are more likely to report their injuries to medical professionals. The same study mentioned above showed that girls required a longer recovery time than boys after a concussion. No matter the cause, the issue stands that athletes, coaches, and parents must be more cautious of girls getting concussions.

Concussions Caused by Cheerleading Stunts

Cheerleading as a sport has come a long way from the jazz-dance based, pom-pom shakers of the past. Nowadays,400,000 student-athletes participate in cheerleading, and over 25% compete. Modern cheerleading performances are heavily based in gymnastics, tumbling, and stunts. Imagine being tossed feet into the air while flipping, only to be caught by three of your peers. To add to the terror, cheerleaders don’t wear helmets or any protective gear. It’s easy to see why cheerleading is one of the top female-based sports for concussions. Tossing a team member into the air takes strength, recovering from an elbow to the head while catching her takes a skull of steel.

Fouls on the Brain in Girls’ Basketball

In basketball, the quick court coverage, aggressive blocking, and hard floors are a recipe for injury. Being under the net for a rebound is a risk team members take multiple times a game, but the results aren’t always 2 points. You’d be surprised how many collisions and falls result in head-to-floor landings. In a study that took place over 11 years, 109,000 children and teenagers were treated for basketball-related head injuries. “Among boys, the percentage of head injuries doubled over the period, but among girls, it tripled,” the New York TImes reported.

Head Shots Become Injuries for Girls’ Soccer

Soccer is an intense, physically demanding sport for both guys and girls. Here’s the picture that flashes across my mind when I think of soccer- a 60 mph ball bouncing off of an unprotected head. It’s not like that is a rare sighting in the game– headers are one of the main ways to keep the ball in play. A study in the Winter 2007-2008 edition ofJournal of Athletic Training found that girls playing high school soccer suffer concussions 68 percent more often than boys.

Concussion Therapy for Female Athletes

After a head injury, the cranial bone movement is altered, slowing down the cerebrospinal fluid movement, and making it impossible to efficiently remove the waste products that are produced within the brain. When this occurs, the brain tissue starts to die. Female athletes with concussions that don’t receive cranial movement therapy are susceptible to “second concussion syndrome.” In other words, their symptoms will continue to worsen.

Cranial movement therapy is the solution the Simkovich Concussion Institute uses to maneuver the cranial bones back into their original positions after a head injury. This correction restores their natural rhythm within the skull, with then reinstates the normal cerebrospinal fluid flow and circulation.

The evolution of youth sports is not on brain-safety’s side. The games are becoming more competitive and the players are tougher than ever. Girls are no exception to this equation. Parents, players, and coaches need to become aware of the increased risk in girls sports. While helmets may never make their way into cheerleading, basketball, or soccer culture, identifying and assessing concussions are a must.

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