Concussion Expert Explores Female Athletes’ Awareness And Behavior Following Head Injuries
SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y - Mark Herceg, PhD, a leading concussion expert, researcher and neuropsychologist at Northwell Health's Phelps Hospital, presented today at the 13th World Congress on Brain Injury in Toronto results of a study on elite female youth ice hockey players and their knowledge about concussions, including how their behavior is influenced by their awareness.
Few studies have examined the knowledge about concussion in female athletes, which is an important factor in concussion care, according to Dr. Herceg, a member of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. A vast majority of research to date primarily focused on men's sports. Dr. Herceg argues that female athletes have a higher prevalence of concussion and recover from injury slower as compared to male athletes.
The main focus of Dr. Herceg's study examined how the knowledge girls have about concussion interacts with their self-reported behaviors and included questions asking participants about their behavior in order to assess how much their awareness is connected and applied to their behavior.
"It's troubling that the vast majority of studies on reporting behavior are not comprehensive because they either do not include women or do not probe players' knowledge about concussion," Dr. Herceg said. "There needs to be a greater effort to get female athletes to take ownership when they are hurt and for professionals and the general public to address the female athlete in the same fashion."
More than 400 out of 535 female players, or 75 percent of the participants, completed the 33-item survey, which was issued to 47 youth ice hockey programs across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire, of which 20 confirmed participation. The form included questions on severity of injury, whether they ever had a concussion they did not report, and what they think constitutes a concussion. Dr. Herceg's results indicate that although girls tend to demonstrate good overall knowledge of concussion, this notion does not necessarily impact their behavior or alter how they report their own head injuries.
"If our data tells us one thing – it's that female athletes are not willing to report their own injuries, which can have lasting consequences," Dr. Herceg added. "Female participation in ice hockey across the country is growing, so it will become ever more critical not only to address the risk factors but to improve education and awareness so that proper diagnoses can be made and appropriate treatment recommended."
Ultimately, the research aims to characterize the relationship between knowledge and action and the extent of knowledge generally and seeks to encourage girls to consistently report their injuries.
"The seriousness of sports-related concussions elevate the importance of Dr. Herceg's findings that athletes sometimes fail to report their injury which leads to misdiagnosis and absence of therapy," said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.
In February, a group of more than 60 leading international neuroscientists – including Dr. Herceg – published a correspondence in The Lancet Neurology, asking for balance when reporting on sports-related injury chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a type of dementia associated with exposure to repeated concussions that has been linked with a variety of contact sports such as boxing, football, American football and rugby.