Is the Severity of a Concussion Linked to Gender?
Research on the nature of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussions continues to expand and advance.
One area of focus is the role gender plays in head trauma. While it’s long been maintained that males are at a higher risk for head trauma (due to violent sports like football), new research is painting a different picture of the concussion landscape.
Women and Concussion
According to the CDC, emergency room visits related to TBIs and concussions among women doubled between 2001 and 2010. These incidents were the result of a variety of head traumas, including: falls, car accidents, assaults, and sports injuries.
Research has shown that women are more prone to concussion, even when playing the same sports as men. When women experience a concussion, their symptoms can be more severe, and the recovery process even longer than with similarly affected men. Concussed women also exhibit symptoms that are dramatically more conspicuous, such as trouble with balance, loss of consciousness and migraines.
Explanations from the Experts
According to a recent Penn Study, one of the reasons why women are more susceptible to concussions than men is that they have smaller, more breakable nerve fibers. In tests that simulated the effects of a TBI, female axons were found to be more likely to break than male axons when the same amount of force was applied. For this reason, it’s believed that women have an increased risk of concussion and have worse outcomes than men.
Another possible explanation for why it takes longer for women to heal from concussions involves the hormone progesterone. Production of progesterone, which supports brain cell growth and aids in keeping the brain calm, drops significantly when a brain injury is sustained. Depleted levels of progesterone can intensify concussion symptoms and extend the recovery period. Other research indicates that the point at which a concussion occurs during a woman’s menstrual cycle can determine the severity of the symptoms.
Know the Warning Signs
While some people display warning signs immediately following a TBI, others don’t develop symptoms until weeks or even months later. The result of this delay is that the underlying cause of the symptoms is often forgotten. Here are some of the most common symptoms of mild to moderate TBIs and concussions:
• Difficulty with concentration and paying attention
• Memory problems
• Difficulty with word finding
• Mental and/or physical fatigue
• Sleep problems
• Sensitivity to noise and/or light
• Anger outbursts
• Increased anxiety
• Social isolation
• Vision problems
• Balance problems
The Silent Epidemic
The World Health Organization ranks TBI as the leading cause of both disability and mortality in individuals under the age of 45. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million new TBIs are reported each year in the United States due to falls, accidents, and concussions. Millions of others go unnoticed, leading to what many researchers have called the “silent epidemic.”
Brain injuries that don’t result in a loss of consciousness are frequently ignored and are never diagnosed or treated. Any head injury, even a seemingly innocuous bump on the head, may come with extreme long-term health consequences, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
If you or a family member have suffered a concussion or TBI, use these 3 strategies to protect and preserve your brain:
Though certainly not an exhaustive list, applying these common safety tips can help safeguard your brain from a concussion or TBI:
• Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a vehicle.
• Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications that can impair the ability to drive.
• Install handrails on all stairways in your home.
• Avoid high risk sports and activities where you can hit your head.
• When working out, do exercises that strengthen your neck.
• Use a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves.
• Always wear a helmet, and make sure your children wear helmets, during contact sports, bike riding, horseback riding, skateboarding, snowmobiling, skiing or snowboarding.
• Don’t dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools. Measure the depth and check for debris in the water before diving.
• Don’t text and walk/drive.
Ask the Right Questions
All too often, concussions aren’t taken seriously unless a person has noticeable symptoms right after the head injury occurs. However, every brain injury is significant – even sub-concussive events. If you don’t already have a set of questions for assessing a head injury, use this list.
Take a Look
How can you really know if you have a head injury unless you get an image of your brain? Brain SPECT imaging is the best tool for determining if your brain has suffered functional damage from a concussion or TBI.
Brain SPECT imaging can:
• Help identify if there has been brain trauma
• Show brain blood flow deficits NOT visible in anatomical studies, such as CT or MRI
• Identify affected brain systems
• Help determine if there could be co-occurring conditions that need treatment
• Increase treatment compliance by showing pictures of results
• Provide scientific documentation that may help with special services or legal issues
Our Full Evaluation includes two SPECT images (concentrating and resting states), a detailed clinical history, neuropsychological testing and comprehensive evaluation with one of our doctors to target treatment specifically to your brain, using the least toxic, most effective means.
If you or a loved one have suffered a concussion or TBI and are experiencing anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviors, or memory loss, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule a visit.