Purpose: Recent epidemiological research has revealed that gender differences exist in concussion incidence but no study has investigated why females may be at greater risk of concussion. Our purpose was to determine whether gender differences existed in head-neck segment kinematic and neuromuscular control variables responses to an external force application with and without neck muscle preactivation.
Methods: Forty (20 females and 20 males) physically active volunteers participated in the study. The independent variables were gender, force application (known vs unknown), and force direction (forced flexion vs forced extension). The dependent variables were kinematic and EMG variables, head-neck segment stiffness, and head-neck segment flexor and extensor isometric strength. Statistical analyses consisted of multiple multivariate and univariate analyses of variance, follow-up univariate analyses of variance, and t-tests (P < or = 0.05).
Results: Gender differences existed in head-neck segment dynamic stabilization during head angular acceleration. Females exhibited significantly greater head-neck segment peak angular acceleration (50%) and displacement (39%) than males despite initiating muscle activity significantly earlier (SCM only) and using a greater percentage of their maximum head-neck segment muscle activity (79% peak activity and 117% muscle activity area). The head-neck segment angular acceleration differences may be because females exhibited significantly less isometric strength (49%), neck girth (30%), and head mass (43%), resulting in lower levels of head-neck segment stiffness (29%).
Conclusion: For our subject demographic, the results revealed gender differences in head-neck segment dynamic stabilization during head acceleration in response to an external force application. Females exhibited significantly greater head-neck segment peak angular acceleration and displacement than males despite initiating muscle activity earlier (SCM only) and using a greater percentage of their maximum head-neck segment muscle activity.