Special report: Are female athletes at greater risk for concussions than guys?

'Football players aren't the only ones who suffer concussions' -- Dr. Marci Goolsby

ESPNHS Girl: Health—August 31, 2011

In most sports, girls are more likely to suffer concussions than boys, research shows. A study published in the "Journal of Athletic Training" earlier this year found that female soccer players are 68 percent more likely to suffer concussions. Among basketball players, girls are three times more likely to be concussed.

"Sometimes we just focus on football when it comes to concussions," says Dr. Marci Goolsby of New York City's Hospital of Special Surgery. "But we're seeing that they’re affecting [all] young athletes, and people need to understand that football players aren’t the only ones who suffer concussions."

While it's clear females incur more concussions than males, no studies have yet explained why. Experts have several theories.

"Females may not have as much head and neck control," Dr. Goolsby says. "That affects the force that gets transmitted to the brain."

While coaches value toughness, doctors stress that athletes are harmed by the belief that they should continue playing while injured.

Cultural expectations aren't the only aspect of girls' sports to change in recent years.

"The nature of athletics among females has changed," says Dr. Goolsby. "It's a lot more high-contact and aggressive."

Multiple concussions, particularly if they occur close together, can lead to dementia, depression and other mental illnesses, research suggests.

"It's important to realize these concussions are not insignificant," Dr. Goolsby says. "They need to be treated just like a torn ACL needs to be treated."

^ Back to Top
Request an Appointment