There has been a rise in female participation in sports that are defined as collision sports, where athletes intentionally hit each other (e.g., American Football), leading to a relatively high rate of concussion incidence. Covassino et al. (2006) showed that female athletes have different neuropsychological performance relative to males in preseason concussion testing. The significance of this finding is that it could directly influence return-to-play criteria. For example, preseason testing is not always practical due to time constraints or valid due to an athlete “sandbagging” their baseline testing. Thus, using norm-reference values (data derived from a large population) instead of baseline-references values (data derived from the participant prior to the season) has been suggested to be a more valid way to derive return characteristics. If the norm-reference method were adopted and only male values were used, that approach is only valid if female and male baseline values are the same. Given the emergence of recent research on sex-differences relative to concussion testing, it is likely that females and males have different baseline values, which would necessitate the need for sex-specific norm-reference data sets.
Examine neuromotor performance data collected with a balance test during preseason testing in order to compare these data to previously published male norms to determine whether sex differences exist.
Hypothesis: Female football players would have different baseline values than male football players.
The female football players in our sample had less CoP movement, indicating better balance, relative to males. Concussions are known to increase CoP movement, indicating worse balance. However, given the lower baseline CoP measures in women, our data suggest that post-concussion measures of balance in women may still be considered normative if compared to return-to-play criteria derived for men. Thus, our data suggest that sex-specific guidelines for return-to-play criteria may be justified.