All Concussions aren't the same: How the Sexes Differ

Did you know that women and men have different risks, symptoms and recovery of concussion?

Diagnostics Testing|Nov.19, 2021

All brain injuries are not the same.

In fact, women experience different concussion risks, symptoms and recovery paths than men.

One study found that women in some sports are at higher risk of concussion than men. Female athletes also tend to experience more symptoms and take longer to recover than their male peers, and women overall report a higher severity of symptoms (such as cognitive impairment).

As concussion impacts each of us differently, taking a closer look at the factors at play can help us better understand these invisible injuries, as well as how to detect and recover from them.

How Our Brains Differ
It's understood by the medical community that the male and female brain differ in more than 100 ways — from structure to chemistry to blood flow.

As Dr. Beth McQuiston, medical director at Abbott, explains, "women may have more neural connections in the brain than men do, but their brains may also be more susceptible to injury."

Additionally, fluctuations of hormones such as progesterone may lead to differences in symptomology. For example, if a woman sustains a concussion at a time when when progesterone levels are naturally high, an abrupt drop in progesterone after injury may contribute to post concussive symptoms. This is another reason why women may recover differently than men, who have low pre-injury levels of the hormone.

There is so much we don't yet know about how brain injuries affect us uniquely.

And, as McQuiston put it: "We can't treat what we don't know."

"Like Turning a Light On in the Dark"
Though the scientific community has much to learn about how concussion experiences vary between women and men, we’re discovering new technologies that allow us to "turn a light on in the dark", as McQuiston puts it, and detect brain injury objectively.

We're actively working toward a future where fast and objective brain injury detection could occur when and where it’s needed most, with the clearance of our i-STAT TBI plasma test being our first step in making that vision a reality.

Learn more about concussion.