Professional football fields and hockey rinks – these are the two places many people associate with serious sports-related concussions. However, a new study found that the athletes most vulnerable to long-lasting, sometimes permanent complications from concussions are young people and females.
Researchers say that because younger athletes' brains have not fully developed, they have an increased risk of suffering from concussion-related side-effects, such as prolonged cognitive impairment.
Girls suffer twice as many concussions as boys in the sports they both play. Researchers think that higher estrogen levels, greater rates of blood flow, and higher metabolic needs in the brain make girls' concussion symptoms more severe.
The results of the study also suggest that girls and younger athletes can take longer to recover after a concussion, and therefore need to be managed more cautiously to avoid further brain injury. Furthermore, the study also emphasized the dangers of treating young athletes as "mini-adults." Because kids' heads aren't as steady on their shoulders, taking a big hit means that their brains move inside their skulls, leading to a concussion.
According to the study, more than 150,000 teenage athletes sustained concussions on the playing field between 2001 and 2005.