Sports concussions and girls

CHICAGO -- Mention concussions and most people think football. But girls are suffering far more concussions than boys in sports from soccer to softball.

If you take football out of the picture, girls suffer more concussions among high school and college athletes than boys. But the head injury doesn't discriminate. One concussion is unlikely to do permanent damage, but multiple concussions can be devastating.

Anxious to impress college softball coaches, 17-year-old Hali Jester came back too soon from a concussion and suffered another one.

"I was very dizzy, very nauseous. I did receive headaches and after my second concussion is when I really started to get these awful migraines, and these awful neck pains," Jester said.

Researchers are studying whether boys and girls experience and recover from concussions differently. Girls have longer necks, and may not be as well conditioned as boys. And they may report concussions more often.

"So, often women don't have the same muscle protection to control head movement that men do," said Dr. Kathleen Bell, director of Concussion Clinic at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Before being cleared to hit the field again, Hali must pass vision, balance and cognitive tests.

"Now, we think she likely has had more prolonged symptoms, because her brain wasn't healed, it wasn't ready to go back and receive another blow," said Dr. Tonia Sabo, a pediatric neurologist and medical director of Children's Health Concussion Clinic, Children's Health System at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

"I went from basically being like a stud to a dud and it's very difficult. If I realized this could have been this serious beforehand, I would have never went back so soon," Jester said.

After a blow to the head, parents should be alert and seek medical help if their child is: confused, unusually fatigued, emotionally flat or tearful.

"And if you see your child acting in any unusual fashion during a game, it's time to say to the coach, something looks wrong there, you think they should ... in fact don't say, do you think, say I think my child should sit out for a little while," Bell said.

Bell supports girls playing sports, as long as they are well conditioned. But if they experience a concussion, they should not play again, until cleared by a medical professional.

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