In recent years, interest in concussion signs and symptoms, evaluation, and long-term sequelae has increased. However, in order to prevent concussions, we need to identify at-risk groups. While many concussions are considered minor, the cumulative effects of repeated concussions can have long-term consequences.1,2
Furthermore, certified athletic trainers and sports medicine physicians have difficulty detecting and classifying sport-related concussions because of the wide variety of signs and symptoms, and athletes may try to minimize their symptoms in order to continue participation.3,4
Moreover, Barnes et al5
and Boden et al6
suggested that concussions are more common in some collegiate sports than previously anticipated. Powell and Barber-Foss7
concluded that 3.9% of all injuries in all sports were mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) and that approximately 40
000 per 1.1 million high school football players sustained concussions each year. Consequently, we need to identify which group of athletes is at risk and address methods for preventing concussions.
The Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology8
described cerebral concussions as an altered mental state that may or may not include loss of consciousness. This subcommittee agreed that the most prominent symptoms of concussions are amnesia and confusion.8
Most of the literature regarding concussions concentrates on football and ice hockey players. Few studies to date have compared collegiate sports or identified which athletes are more at risk for suffering concussions.6
Very few studies have compared sex differences among collegiate athletes who sustain a concussion.5–7
However, female collegiate sports teams, especially in soccer and lacrosse, have expanded immensely across the nation. It can be argued that male athletes may be at greater risk for concussions due to their aggressive nature or the faster pace of the sport, or both, while female athletes may be at greater risk due to their smaller size and weaker neck strength.5
This information is critical to helping the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recognize if there is a need to modify rules or equipment to help reduce the number of concussions sustained by collegiate athletes. Hence, it is important to determine if male or female athletes may be at a more inherent risk of sustaining a concussion in collegiate sports.
Similar studies have been conducted at the high school level by Powell and Barber-Foss,7
who examined MTBIs in 10 male and female high school sports. They described MTBI as a traumatic brain or head injury resulting in an athlete's removal from participation. The rate of MTBI was slightly higher in girl's soccer (6.2%) than in boy's soccer (5.7%), in girl's basketball (5.2%) than in boy's basketball (4.2%), and in softball (2.1%) than in baseball (1.2%).
Soccer is one of the only sports in which researchers have compared sex differences at the collegiate level with regard to concussions and neurologic or neuropsychological impairments.5–7
In 1998, Barnes et al5
and Boden et al6
concluded that men had a higher incidence of concussions than women and that concussions were becoming more common than previously anticipated.
Our purpose was to compare sex differences in the incidence of concussions among collegiate athletes in men's and women's soccer, lacrosse, basketball, softball/baseball, and gymnastics during the 1997–1998, 1998–1999, and 1999–2000 seasons.