Concussion Recovery Affected By Sex, Age

By Amir Khan on May 18, 2012 10:52 AM EDT

Concussion
Concussions are front and center in the NFL, but are also common in high school athletes. High school athletes and females take longer to recover from concussions, according to a new study. (Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Concussions can be debilitating, and depending on your sex and age, your recovery time can vary greatly, according to a new study, published in the May edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers looked at 222 young athletes who suffered from a concussion and found that females and high school students took, on average, much longer to recover from concussions than their counterparts, researchers said. They also had more and more severe symptoms and scored lower on tests aimed to measure their ability to recall information.

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Younger athletes still have developing brains, meaning they are more susceptible to concussion symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, ringing in the ear, fatigue and confusion, according to the study. Researchers aren't sure why females took longer to recover, but said a difference in brain structure could be to blame.

"Our high school athletes took longer to recover than college athletes," Tracey Covassin, study author and assistant professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing, told WebMD. "The college athletes had recovered by seven days. All [high school and college athletes] went back to normal within 14 days."

Concussions are becoming more common in young athletes, researchers said. In 2008, there were five concussions for every 10,000 U.S. high school athletes, researchers said. That is up from just one per 10,000 in 1998.

Part of the increase is due to more vigilance in diagnosing concussions, according to the study, since doctors are on the lookout for concussions.

Approximately 35 states and the District of Colombia have signed laws aiming to reduce the prevalence of youth concussions. The laws state mandate that the athletes be removed from the game if a concussion is suspected and mandate that a healthcare professional clears them before they return to play.

Researchers said that if your child is diagnosed with a concussion, it's important to wait until they are completely symptom free before they become active again. Too many concussions can have long-term effects, including brain damage and dementia.

"It's going to take time for your child to fully recover, so don't rush them back into the sport," Covassin, told Reuters.

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