Concussions: Why female athletes are more susceptible than male athletes

Posted at 5:33 PM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 17:33:21-04

Caroline Smith finished her sophomore year at Brecksville high school with a state volleyball championship under her belt.

"I just got a jersey at the end of the season so it was fun to be a part of it," Smith said.

But that year she also walked away with her first registered concussion.

"First it was during play and a girl shanked a ball into my head and it jerked my head backwards, so I think that is where I got whiplash from," said Smith.

Smith says she shook it off and kept playing. But then, in a different play, another player kneed her in the back of her head.

"My eyes started watering pretty bad and then the lights started bothering me. My mom was directly in front of me so I just stared at her like 'mom my head hurts,'" Smith said.

Smith went to the Cleveland Clinic after the game where she was treated for a concussion and whiplash.

"They said I needed to do physical therapy to strengthen my neck back up and I did that for a while."

The Clinic's concussion center is partnered with 44 area schools to collect data on student athletes like Smith. With that data, they found women are more susceptible to suffer concussions.

"We think it has to do with their muscularity, think about a man's neck, nice and strong, where as women's neck, although strong, is a little bit more slender" said Dr. Richard Figler, Co-Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center.

But Dr. Figler says, right now, it is not studied nearly as much.

"When we analyzed the data, we see more women with neck pain when it comes to their concussions," said Dr. Figler.

Dr. Figler suggests that parents should also have a heightened sense of awareness, especially  when it comes to lower-risk sports.

"They may come home and say they accidentally got hit in the head, but they are not sure if they have signs or symptoms," said Dr. Figler.