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Rise in concussions in female athletics

Posted at 8:32 AM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 08:52:23-04

We’re digging into new reports claiming the number of concussions among teenage girl athletes across our country is going up, especially those playing lacrosse and soccer.

Fox 4 investigator Frank Cipolla explains how changes to prevent concussions may instead be causing more.

17-year-old Sophia Chickering plays on the Naples High School girl's varsity lacrosse team. She's had two concussions within a 6-month period but continues to play.

As she puts it, there's nothing she can do worrying about it.

Her teammate Teagan Nabors suffered a concussion this spring and says she doesn't remember much about the game. She says for the next two days she was 'out of it'. As she puts it, “just staring at the wall.”

Her mother, Michaela Adam, remains concerned and watchful.

A study which compiled data from over 200 high schools and 26 colleges, shows women's lacrosse ranks second only to football in the number of concussions.

MORE: Mount Sinai Hosts First Ever Conference on CTE in the Female Brain

In 2018 Florida became the first state in the nation to mandate high school female lacrosse players wear helmets.

But some believe it has led to more concussions. The coach of the Naples High lacrosse team, Jayson Saunders, argues helmets lead to more aggressive play, and he remains firmly in the 'no helmet' camp.

In fact, he says, if he had his way, his players wouldn't wear them.

Why? According to Jayson, they give players a false sense of invincibility. Also, he believes referees feel they don't have to be as vigilant in calling fouls.

Sophia has been on the receiving end of that aggressiveness. In her case, she says an opposing player swung to check her and hit her helmet. She's convinced if she did not have the helmet on, her opponent would not have swung her stick to begin with.

Meanwhile research from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shows high school girls soccer players suffer a higher concussion rate than boys playing the same game. For them, helmets are not required.

Recently a group called Pink Concussions, based in Connecticut, began investigating why young women suffered more on-field concussions.

Executive Director Katherine Snedaker says she is very concerned. She agrees with a University of Rochester Study which shows the severity and frequency of concussions in young girls and women is connected their hormones.

The study shows in the first two weeks of a woman's menstrual cycle the effects of a concussion are longer lasting. In the last two weeks, not as much.

In addition, she points out, symptoms in girls don't often show up for a day or two days later. And playing post-concussion shows the recovery time is longer.

The bottom line, says Coach Saunders, is parents need to be vigilante in spotting concussions since they know their children best. Any complaint or change in personality post game should be a warning sign.