Sports concussion symptoms linger twice as long in teen girls as in boys, a new study finds.
“These findings confirm what many in sports medicine have believed for some time,” said lead researcher Dr. John Neidecker, a sports concussion specialist in Raleigh, N.C.
Previous research has suggested that concussions may exacerbate underlying conditions that are more prevalent in girls — migraine headaches, depression, anxiety and stress. This may explain the extended recovery period, Neidecker and his colleagues said.
The study findings were published Oct. 2 in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
The results highlight “the need to take a whole person approach to managing concussions, looking beyond the injury to understand the mental and emotional impacts on recovery when symptoms persist,” Neidecker said.
Doctors should get a full patient history to uncover factors that might complicate concussion recovery in teens, he said.
“Often in this age range, issues like migraines, depression and anxiety have not yet been diagnosed,” Neidecker explained. “So, if I ask a patient whether they have one of these conditions, they’re likely to say ‘No’. But when I ask about their experiences, I get a much clearer picture.”
The research team focused on 102 girls and 110 boys, ages 11 to 18, with first-time sports concussions. Symptoms lasted a median of 28 days in girls (half more, half less) and 11 days in boys. Symptoms cleared up within three weeks in 42 percent of girls and 75 percent of boys.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resources for parents on kids’ concussions.