Gender May Affect Concussion Recovery Time

Concussion recovery time was longer for men than for women

Sports injuries, car crashes and other accidents can lead to blows to the head that result in concussion. And some patients seem to have concussion symptoms that last longer than others.

Recovery from concussions took more than twice as long for men than for women in a new study of those with this mild brain injury.

"Tell your doctor if your concussion symptoms aren't improving."

This study’s lead author was Saeed Fakhran, MD, an assistant professor of neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Fakhran and colleagues examined the health care records and brain images of 47 males and 22 females who sustained a mild traumatic brain injury — commonly called a concussion — between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2013.

These researchers compared those persons' brain images, which were done through diffusion tensor imaging, to the brains of 10 males and 11 females who had no history of concussions. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a more advanced form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can give a more precise view of brain abnormalities.

The males ranged from 10 to 38 years old, and the group's average age was 18. The females ranged from 12 to 25 years old, bringing the group's average age to 16.7 years. Of the males, 68 percent had been injured while playing sports, while 45 percent of the females were injured while playing sports.

The males who had no history of concussions had an average age of 17. The females with no history of concussions had an average age of 16.

As a group, overall, both the males and females took an average of 54 days to fully recover from their concussions. The average recovery period for females, however, was 26.3 day, compared with 66.9 days for males.

There was no difference in the severity of the initial symptoms between the male and female patients.

These researchers noted that self-reporting of ongoing concussion symptoms may not be the best way to measure which participants still had symptoms. That might be especially true when it comes to athletes, who may be less likely to complain of symptoms than the average person, the researchers wrote.

"In the future, we would like to look at the issue of gender and concussions more in depth to determine who does better and why," Dr. Fakhran said in an announcement about the study.

"Currently, we are heavily reliant on patient reporting, and patients may have ulterior motives such as wanting to get back to play," he said.

These researchers also said that DTIs, rather than traditional MRIs, may help doctors better pinpoint and treat concussion symptoms.

More than 17 million Americans sustain a concussion each year, these researchers wrote. For about 15 percent of them, concussion symptoms last for more than three months, they added.

This study was published online May 6 in Radiology.

These researchers reported that they had no financial investments or other ethical conflicts that could influence study design, analysis or outcomes.

Review Date: 
May 5, 2014