A new study shows that they are more likely to suffer the
injuries and deal with prolonged symptoms.
During a soccer game two years ago, Megan Wirtz, a goalie for her
high school team, was bending down to pick up a ball when an
opposing player mistakenly kicked her in the face.
Her face swollen and bleeding, Megan was taken to an emergency
room and stitched up.
No one realized she had suffered a severe concussion until three
weeks later, when a player ran into her during another game and she
fell to the ground, suffering a seizure on the field.
Doctors think she experienced what is known as second-impact
syndrome, a sequence of events in which a child or teenager suffers
a hit before a concussion fully heals, which can cause the brain to
bleed or swell, even if the second impact is just a moderate one.
"In retrospect, we hadn't thought as much about her brain as we
clearly should have," said her mother, Barbara, a nurse in East
Lansing, Michigan. "She doesn't have lingering problems like some
players do. We were very lucky in that regard. But the reality is if
she continues to play, it could happen again."
New research in the latest issue of The American Journal of
Sports Medicine shows that athletes like Megan may be particularly
susceptible to the damaging effects of a concussion.
The research found that younger athletes and those who are female
show more symptoms and take longer to recover from a concussion than
athletes who are male or older.
More than 1.6 million Americans suffer sports-related concussions
every year, and a growing number occur among high school and college
athletes. According to government statistics, more than 150,000
teenage athletes suffered concussions on the playing field from 2001
Although researchers have known that girls run a greater risk of
suffering concussions than boys playing the same sports, the new
study is among the first to look at the effect of both age and sex
on a range of symptoms.
The findings suggest that because of anatomical differences that
make them more vulnerable, female athletes, and younger athletes in
particular, may need to be managed more cautiously after a
concussion, said Tracey Covassin, an associate professor of
kinesiology at Michigan State University and the lead author of the
"Parents need to understand that if their daughter has a
concussion, that they may potentially take longer to recover from
that concussion than their son who is a football player," she said.
Over the course of two years, Dr. Covassin and her colleagues
followed a large group of high school and college athletes from
California, Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee. …