Cihacekj’s Weblog

November 2, 2008

Ain’t that a kick in the head, ladies?

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:25 pm

The nineteenth century has come and gone, and so has the notion that women are only best under domestic conditions.  Women like Jennie Finch, Venus and Serena Williams, Kerri Walsh, Shawn Johnson, and Heather Mitts are no exception to the rule.  But not only do these ladies have incredible guts, gams and glutes, they are also more prone to sports injuries.  The most common among female athletes?  Concussions.

According to researchers from the Journal of Athletic Training, girls are 68% more likely to suffer sports related concussions.  The reasons for this are pointed to basic anatomy and biomechanical differences.  Girls’ heads are smaller and their neck muscles are simply not as strong as their male counterparts’.  Different styles of play, different training techniques, cultural norms, and even increasing numbers of highly competitive female athletes also explain this issue.

As rowdy and aggressive  as boys may seem on the playing field, looks, in this case, are not so deceiving.   The equation is easy.  Stronger genetic and biological makeup = more resistance to force.  Girls are known to take longer to recover from a  head injury than boys, and academically, the effects are generally more serious and prevalent in females.

Ultimately, a concussion, also referred to as mild traumatic brain injury or minor head trauma is an injury that results from a blow to the head that causes the brain to slam against the inner wall of the skull.  It is not life-threatening, but it can cause both short-term (a couple weeks) and long-term (years) problems.  Symptoms can include confusion, terrible headaches, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, perservating (repetition in speech), dizziness, amnesia (loss of memory), drowsiness, weakness, ringing in the ears and the inability to walk.

High schools all over the country are reporting a rise in sports-related head cases, too, especially in young girls.  It may be that high school girls are bigger, stronger and faster these days so that collisions between players are more forceful and dangerous.  The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has released an official manual encouraging coaches, athletic trainers and assistants to protect young athletes from serious injury through educational programs, improved protective equipment and better enforcement of rules.

Perhaps the scariest part about head trauma is that most athletes are unaware of the severity because of  the differences in how they handle the symptoms.  Nebraska Neurologist, Dr. Peter Lennarson spoke to KPTM Fox 42 earlier this year, encouraging medical attention right away at the first sign of a concussion.

“Some people have a mild blow to the head and seem to have a severe disruption of function and others have a major blow to their head and don’t seem to be affected, so there’s not a way to predict that [how it will affect any one person].”

While my athleticism (or lack thereof) doesn’t exactly qualify me as a concussion casualty, to my many soccer star sisters and avid gym-going girlfriends, it’s a girl’s world, just be careful in it.


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