Sex differences in concussion symptoms of high school athletes

J Athl Train. 2011 Jan-Feb;46(1):76-84. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-46.1.76.


Context: More than 1.6 million sport-related concussions occur every year in the United States, affecting greater than 5% of all high school athletes who participate in contact sports. As more females participate in sports, understanding possible differences in concussion symptoms between sexes becomes more important.

Objective: To compare symptoms, symptom resolution time, and time to return to sport between males and females with sport-related concussions.

Design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Setting: Data were collected from 100 high schools via High School RIO (Reporting Information Online).

Patients or other participants: Athletes from participating schools who sustained concussions while involved in interscholastic sports practice or competition in 9 sports (boys' football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, and baseball and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball) during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years. A total of 812 sport concussions were reported (610 males, 202 females).

Main outcome measure(s): Reported symptoms, symptom resolution time, and return-to-play time.

Results: No difference was found between the number of symptoms reported (P = .30). However, a difference was seen in the types of symptoms reported. In year 1, males reported amnesia (exact P = .03) and confusion/disorientation (exact P = .04) more frequently than did females. In year 2, males reported more amnesia (exact P = .002) and confusion/disorientation (exact P = .002) than did females, whereas females reported more drowsiness (exact P = .02) and sensitivity to noise (exact P = .002) than did males. No differences were observed for symptom resolution time (P = .40) or return-to-play time (P = .43) between sexes.

Conclusions: The types of symptoms reported differed between sexes after sport-related concussion, but symptom resolution time and return-to-play timelines were similar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Students