Female athletes seek specialty medical treatment later than male athletes for sports-related concussions (SRC), and this delay may cause them to experience more symptoms and longer recoveries. Researchers reported these findings in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine after analyzing electronic health records of sports participants aged 7 to 18. The study raises the question of whether, in youth and high school sports, inequities in medical and athletic trainer coverage on the sidelines are contributing to delayed identification and specialized treatment of concussion for female athletes, leading to more symptoms and longer recovery trajectories. They analyzed a dataset containing records of 192 children between 7 and 18 who were diagnosed with an SRC and seen by a sports medicine specialist.
Females took longer to present to specialist care and had longer recovery trajectories than males. The median days to presentation for a subspecialty evaluation was 15 for females with SRC and 9 for males. Researchers found that females returned to school later (4 vs. 3 days), returned to exercise later (13 vs. 7 days), had neurocognitive recovery later (68 vs. 40 days), had later vision and vestibular (balance) recovery (77 vs. 34 days) and returned to full sport far later (119 vs. 45 days). Importantly, when researchers limited the analysis to those female and male patients that presented to the specialty practice for evaluation within the first 7 days of injury, the differences between males and females on all outcomes disappeared.