You’ve come a long way baby.
In 1968, the Virginia Slims’ slogan was meant to be inspirational, not ironic. But during a period where smoking among women symbolized the movement toward equality with men, their lung cancer rates were quickly approaching those of their male counterparts.
Today female athletes face a similar issue. As women gain more opportunities on athletic fields and courts, an unintended consequence has appeared. Concussions among female athletes surpass those of male athletes and pose a unique set of issues for young women.
The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement: concussion in sport states that in sports with similar rules, like men’s and women’s lacrosse, there is a greater incidence of concussion reported among female athletes. Further, females have an increased number, severity, and duration of symptoms compared to male athletes.
Several factors are thought to contribute to this difference. The decreased head-neck mass in females may increase angular deceleration after impact, bumping up the risk for concussive injury. The varying levels of hormones throughout the female’s ovulatory cycle may have an influence on the consequences of injury. Another theory is that women have increased cerebral blood flow which may play a role in the effects of concussion.
Some of the difference in concussion rates may also be due to differential reporting among male and female athletes. But the fact is, the lack of information on concussion in females is a significant barrier to appropriate treatment. According to Stephanie Kolakowsky-Hayner, PhD, the COO of the Brain Trauma Foundation, “lack of information on women after brain injury in general is just astounding.” This is where PINK Concussions comes into the picture.
PINK Concussions was founded by Katherine Price Snedaker, a former athlete who dealt with concussions throughout her sports career. She initially created PINK Concussions in 2013 as an online hub for the latest research into female concussions. Since that time the website has grown into a hard-working organization trying to improve the available evidence and its application to female concussions.
In 2016 two PINK Concussion Summits, hosted by Georgetown University Medical Center and the Palo Alto VA Healthcare System brought together experts in the field of concussion to present the most current evidence on the issue. On April 2, the third PINK Concussion Summit was held following the IBIA World Congress in New Orleans.
Interviews of the presenters are available on the PINK Concussion website and serve as a valuable resource for anyone who treats female patients with concussions. In addition, you can find support groups and patient stories there to help your own patients. This excellent resource for healthcare providers can improve patient education and build support in the community for proper response to traumatic brain injury. It will help you position yourself as the trusted neurology resource in your community.
Women really have come a long way since Virginia Slims were being advertised on t.v. It’s important that their medical care keep up with them.