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Studying the Effects of Concussion on Women Athletes

There have been several studies on concussions in male boxers and football players. The 2015 movie “Concussion” with Will Smith brought a true story of long-term effects of concussion to the public light. The general population is becoming more aware of the dangers of sports-related head injuries. However, there is little research on how women are affected by concussion.

The National Institutes of Health have begun to require scientists to add female animals to their studies. A study published in journal Glia showed that male mice with severe brain injuries bounced back within a day, while the female mice took up to a week to recover.

Earlier this year, a study of college athletes found that women are more likely to get concussions than men. Women tend to have weaker neck muscles, meaning a head impact will jar the brain more violently than in a man. Hormonal differences may also affect the brain’s response to impact and injury.

Laila Ali, daughter of “The Greatest”, made women’s boxing popular a decade ago. Scientists want to study fighters, a sport where both men and women participate. The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas is where professional fighters go for routine brain scans, blood work, and tests of mental functions. The fighters’ study is a way to directly compare men and women in combat sports. Changes in brain structure can be detected over a year’s time.

Female fighter Gina Mazany is participating in this study of fighters made up of 700 male and 60 female athletes. She endures 40 minutes of tests for balance, reaction time, memory, and thinking. She has been fighting for ten years. Her tests and scan come back normal, according to the physician in charge of the study. She knows what she is doing is risky. “This sport is not safe… But a lot of things that we do aren’t safe,” says Mazany.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/24/538294331/female-athletes-are-closing-the-gender-gap-when-it-comes-to-concussions
Hamilton, Jon. “Female Athletes Are Closing The Gender Gap When It Comes To Concussions.” Health Shots. NPR, 24 Jul 2017. Web. 27 Jul 2017.

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