CENTER FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH AND WELLNESS

School of Health and Human Sciences

Introduction

Evidence is beginning to suggest that the female experience relative to concussions is different than males with respect to concussion rate, severity, duration, and return-to-play criteria. It has been suggested that females are more susceptible to concussions due to weaker and smaller neck muscles and as a result, females may experience a more severe concussion when acceleration and impacts are considered. Further, research indicates that females are more likely to report concussion symptoms and may take longer to recover than their male counterparts. Concussions can have a significant impact on a female athlete’s immediate and long-term sport participation at all levels. Since females appear to have a different concussion experience, it is important to determine whether these sex differences exist at baseline or only after the onset of a concussion. Neurocognitive performance is a commonly used indicator of dysfunction due to a concussion, as well as a metric used for return-to-play decisions. This, there is a need to determine whether neurocognitive performance in female athletes differs from male athletes during preseason testing.

Purpose

Examine neurocognitive performance data collected with the Trail Making Test (TMT) during preseason testing in order to compare these data to previously published male norms to determine whether sex difference exist.
Hypothesis: Female football players would have different baseline values than male football players.

Discussion

Our female football sample showed better neurocognitive performance on the TMT relative to the NFL male sample. This may be due to less exposure to head trauma in the past due to less tackle football experience. Regardless of the etiology, our data suggests that sex-specific normative data in the neurocognitive domain may be needed to develop more appropriate return-to-play criteria in female football players. Future work will examine other neurocognitive tests with a female athlete population, along with increasing our sample size.