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Michigan study: Concussions worse for females, younger athletes

A Michigan State University study indicates that concussions suffered by young athletes, especially young women, may be more serious than those sustained by older male players. The report concluded that brain injury symptoms were more pronounced and recovery times were longer for females or high-school age athletes than males and college-level athletes.

Over 1.6 million Americans suffer concussions related to sports every year. Among patients are an increasing number of student athletes.

Between 2001 and 2005, an average of 150,000 teenage players were diagnosed with concussions. Officials fear the real statistic could be much larger since not all concussions were reported or suspected at the time of injury.

The Michigan study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, builds on some knowledge that has already proven; female athletes are more prone to concussions than males who engage in the same sports. The new report adds depth to the original data by comparing gender and age with concussion symptoms and recovery time.

Researchers began the two-year study by performing concussion-related memory and cognitive exams on participating athletes in four states. Three hundred players who sustained concussions during the study period were retested.

The results showed poorer visual and verbal results for injured high school athletes than older players, including a significantly increased time for symptom recovery. Female participants tested lower on visual memory tests than males.

Scientists suspect that younger athletes suffer more intense symptoms longer because their brains are less fully developed. Evidence indicated that females showed more prominent symptoms than males due to metabolic, blood flow and hormonal gender differences.

An author, who has written a book critical of youth sports, believes female concussion symptoms may stand out because girls are more likely to report them. The youth sports critic complained that while more young males are encouraged to talk about concussion-related symptoms, not enough of them are coming forward to seek treatment.

Source: New York Times, "Concussions May Be More Severe in Girls and Young Athletes Fitness," ANAHAD O'CONNOR, May 14, 2012

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