To verify the existence of gender-related differences in athletes’ responses to sports-related concussion, researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Albany, and ImPACT Applications Inc, conducted a review of the symptoms and neurocognitive findings in male and female high-school soccer players. According to a recent American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) news release, researchers were unable to verify these reported discrepancies. 

“Our aim was to identify gender differences in neurocognitive testing in a highly regulated, homogenous population, controlling for several possible modifying factors such as the number of prior concussions and the sport. Prior studies utilized mixed groups of high school and collegiate athletes, without controlling for several potential cofounders,” explains Scott Zuckerman, MD, study author. 

During the study, researchers report that they investigated information about symptoms and neurcognitive scores contained in databases covering athletes in central Tennessee and western Pennsylvania who had sustained concussion during soccer competitions. Forty male and 40 female patients were matched as closely as possible for age, medical/psychiatric history, years of education, lack of special education assistance, history of psychiatric treatment, number of prior concussions, timing of pre- and post-concussion testing, and sport.

The researchers note that they collected data about baseline and post-concussion symptoms and neurocognitive scores that had been obtained using ImPACT. The study reports that researchers tested several theories, including whether female soccer players would report more symptoms at baseline and after concussion, whether female players would have better baseline verbal memory scores, whether male players would have better baseline visual memory scores, and whether female players would exhibit higher levels of neurocognitive impairments immediately following concussion.

The results indicate that the only significant gender-related difference identified was that female soccer players reported a greater number of symptoms post-concussion.  Zuckerman adds that, “Our hypothesis was that females would experience greater levels of acute, post-concussive neurocognitive impairment than males, fitting with what most of the prior literature says, but we found virtually no difference between males and females.”

Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons