WASHINGTON - When it comes to concussions and kids, we tend to focus on football and boys. But it is actually the girls who suffer more.
Researchers at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin tracked 549 patients between the ages of 10 and 18 who sought treatment at a pediatric concussion clinic.
The 235 girls in the study reported more severe symptoms than the boys. They also took longer to recover. The girls, on average, needed 56 days to be symptom-free, while the boys needed 34.
Their findings are in line with what's been observed here in the Washington area at the Medstar National Rehabilitation Network.
Dr. Michael Yochelson, the chief medical officer at Medstar National Rehab, says one theory has to do with the musculature in the girls' necks.
"Concussions can occur not just from the direct impact of a ball or a head-to-head collision, but actually, from a whiplash-type movement of the neck," says Yochelson, who explains girls, as a rule, have weaker neck muscles than boys.
He says much more study is needed to expand on the Wisconsin findings. But all the same, the research to date should serve as a wake-up call for parents and coaches.
"You need to monitor your girls just as much as your boys, and if there is any sign or symptom of a concussion, they need to be pulled out of the game," he advises.
The most common sign of a concussion is a headache that won't go away. But Yochelson says there are other, more subtle clues, including "a person feeling dazed, more fatigued or tired than usual, recurrent nausea, vomiting -- really any neurologic change or change in behavior."
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