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Why do women soccer players suffer more serious brain injuries?

The majority of research on the impact of concussions and other brain injuries on athletes has involved men. However, recent research has found that when it comes to soccer, female athletes suffer more serious brain damage than their male counterparts -- at least when it comes to injuries suffered from heading the ball.

Differences in the reporting of brain injuries was based on gender. However, it was believed by some that women were just more likely to report symptoms than men. This new research indicates that brain injuries -- at least those caused by this activity -- affect men and women differently.

Researchers looked at the brains of almost 100 amateur soccer players of both genders. When comparing players of opposite genders, but the same age and number of times they'd headed the ball, they found a significant difference in the amount of white brain matter that was impacted.

They found that eight brain regions were affected in females, while only three were affected in men. Researchers hypothesize that the differences in the level of brain damage are because females generally have less body mass and weaker neck muscles than males. Regularly-changing hormones in women -- specifically progesterone -- could also leave their brains more vulnerable to impacts.

While there does appear to be gender differences, experts note that brain damage can occur in both men and women if they head a soccer ball frequently enough. One professor says that 1,000 instances of heading in a year seems to be a key number "that's not good for anybody." He notes, however, "Women generally have been known to have more symptoms that last longer, with worse outcomes, following mild head injuries than men."

Understanding the differences in brain injuries in males and females is essential to ensuring that anyone who has suffered such an injury, regardless of the cause, gets the medical care he or she needs. That level of care is essential to understand for anyone who takes action in civil court to get compensation for an injury.

Source: Discover, "Heads Up: Female Soccer Players More Prone to Brain Damage Than Males," Dana Smith, Dec. 21, 2017

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