Women’s concussions have become a cause of increasing concern. As women participate in sports in growing numbers, their rate of injury also has risen; specifically their rate of concussions. This issue has received little attention until now. The newly launched Women’s Sports Safety Initiative (WSSI), under the leadership of national health and safety advocate Mary Hayashi, plans to raise public awareness about this issue and highlight the need for new preventive measures. The following is a women’s concussion resource guidebook with data mined from a Harris Poll. The survey is downloadable on the WSSI website.
During her tenure in the California State Assembly, Hayashi authored two important laws to help protect the safety of all student-athletes from concussions. These laws made California one of the nation’s leaders in efforts to prevent concussions at the high school and college level. Now Hayashi, who has also led successful campaigns in other women’s health issues, will bring her expertise to this new initiative to help reduce the concussion risk of female student-athletes. As a special project fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Hayashi plans to utilize WSSI’s resources to ensure that the challenge of women’s concussions in sports receives the nationwide attention it needs.
Women’s Concussion Data Highlighted In WSSI-Sponsored Harris Poll
The issue of women’s concussions is a complex health and social issue that, as with other complex issues, needs to be fully understood so it can be resolved. As a first major step towards addressing women’s concussions, WSSI sponsored a Harris Poll to help provide necessary data on this issue.
“Because women’s concussions in sports is such a relatively new area of concern,” said Hayashi, “we felt it was important to quantify the issue to provide a statistical framework for moving forward. The Harris Poll organization has done an excellent job of giving us the numbers we need as a cornerstone to a national conversation we need to have on this subject.”
The Harris Poll on women’s concussions surveyed 2,025 adult Americans for WSSI. The poll results reinforce the need for better awareness and education on this issue. Highlights from the results include the findings that among those surveyed:
- 65% are not aware that concussions affect women differently than men
- 79% are not aware that males do not suffer a higher rate of concussions than females in similar sports; including 2 out of 5 (41%) who mistakenly believe men actually suffer from a higher rate
- 80% did not know that women’s concussions can be more severe due to hormonal differences.
- 87% did not realize that female athletes have a longer recovery time from concussions than male athletes.
Poll Results Published in New WSSI Women’s Concussion Resource Guide
The Harris Poll results have been included as part of a new resource guide on women’s concussions published by WSSI. Called “Sports-Related Concussions: Changing the Game For Women and Sports”, the guide is downloadable in pdf format from the WSSI website.
In addition to reporting the Harris Poll results, the Resource Guide provides important information on what to do in case of a concussion, an overview of current state and federal laws regarding student-athlete concussions and some suggested action steps to take to urge new action and education on women’s concussions.
It is important to note that contrary to popular belief, girls who play sports in high school face double the risk of concussion of boys who play sports. It is also worth noting that the sports girls participate in that have the highest risk of concussion are: ice hockey, field hockey, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and soccer.
What To Do In Case of Concussion
One of the sections in the new WSSI Resource Guide outlines immediate steps to take if a concussion occurs or is suspected. Although the report is intended to focus on the issue of women’s concussions, the actions outlined are applicable to all student-athletes in case of a concussion.
A key point is to understand the definition of a concussion regardless of gender. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a comprehensive precise definition. This definition has been adopted by WSSI for its discussions and activities. Regarding the prevention and treatment of women’s concussions:
“A concussion is a brain injury that usually results from a blow to the head, but can also result from a hit to the body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth. This movement can cause damage to the brain cells and may even result in chemical changes in the brain. Many think that a concussion always results in a loss of consciousness; however, this is not always the case. A concussion should always be taken seriously.”
In the event of a concussion or even a possible concussion occurring on the field during a game, the student immediately should be prevented from continuing to play and not allowed to return to participating on the team until the head coach receives written clearance from the student-athlete’s health care provider.
In addition, all information about the suspected concussion needs to be recorded so it can be conveyed to the student-athlete’s medical provider to refer to. This information needs to include what caused the concussion and the estimated force of impact to the head or body, any loss of consciousness, seizures or memory loss following the incident and whether the student has had any other concussions before this incident occurred.
Although it may seem obvious, it is necessary to state that it is imperative that the student-athlete receives immediate medical attention after a possible concussion.
Both the possible short-term and long-term effects of a concussion are listed in the WSSI Resource Guide.
State and Federal Laws Regarding Student-Athlete Concussions
While attempts to date to pass national legislation regarding concussions in student athletes have not been successful, it is heartening to know that within the past decade all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws in this area.
A comprehensive look at these new laws on concussions in student-athletes by the National Conference of State Legislatures all require that the affected student immediately be removed from participating further in a game or practice and be allowed to return only after getting an evaluation and clearance from their health care provider. In addition, all state laws require education and training on how to recognize and respond to a concussion.
In California, WSSI Project Director Mary Hayashi made California one of the first states to pass laws intended to improve the safety of student-athletes when concussions occur. One of the laws she authored required that all high school coaches receive concussion training and education as part of their Red Cross certification. WSSI hopes to make this criteria required of high school coaches in every state.
WSSI Project Director Mary Hayashi’s Call to Action
As the project director of WSSI, Mary Hayashi is determined to improve recognition of the concerns surrounding women’s concussions.
“Concussions in all student-athletes remain a major concern,” Mary said. “But it is clear that our female student-athletes, their families, doctors, trainers, and coaches need better guidelines to help them recognize, and manage concussions. We also need better resources and that requires new research into women’s concussions to further understanding of why concussions occur at a higher rate in female athletes than male athletes, and how we can better protect female athletes from this hazard.”