New research in The American Journal of Sports Medicine shows 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.  While researchers have known that girls run a greater risk of experiencing concussions than boys playing the same sports, this new research also looks at the effect of both age and sex on a range of symptoms.  The study suggests that anatomical differences make girls and younger athletes more vulnerable after a concussion, and may need to be managed more carefully after a concussion.

The research suggests that girls may have more symptoms because of higher estrogen levels, which may fuel brain injury. Younger athletes can be at greater risk because their brains are not fully developed.  The findings also highlight the risks of treating children and teenagers as “miniature adults.”  Mark Hyman, who wrote “Until it Hurts : America’s Obsession With Youth Sports and How it Harms Our Kids,” said “The brain and head of a small child are disproportionately large for the rest of the body. The result is that their heads are not as steady on their shoulders.  When they take a big hit in a football game or are slammed with an elbow in a soccer game, their brains move inside their skulls.  That’s when concussions occur.”

Barbara Wirtz’s teenaged daughter, a soccer player sustained a second impact syndrome.  While bending down to pick up a ball, another player accidentally kicked her in the face.  At the ER she was stitched up, though noone realized she had a concussion as well.  A few weeks later when a player ran into her, she fell to the ground, having a seizure.  Doctors told her she had experienced a second impact syndrome which occurs when a child or teen sustains a hit before a concussion has healed. Wirtz’s daughter is fine, but mom has become more vigilant in watching her daughter from the sidelines.  “I think we’re better at assessing the symptoms of a concussion now.  “We’re a little more watchful and demanding that coaches don’t keep her in if there’s any question at all that she got knocked around.”    The New York Times   May 11, 2012

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