University of Rochester Study Examines Differences in Recovery Times for Women Who Suffer a Concussion

soccer_kneeA study by researchers at the University of Rochester finds that women’s recovery time after they suffer a concussion may differ depending on the timing of the injury. The study examined 144 women who arrived at hospital emergency rooms within four hours after suffering a blow to the head. Blood samples taken at the time determined the level of progesterone in their systems and from these hormone levels, researchers could determine the women’s menstrual cycle phase at the time of their injury. The women were subsequently tested for concussion symptoms one month later.

The results showed that women who were injured in the two weeks prior to having their menstrual period, when progesterone levels were high, recovered from their concussion significantly more slowly than women who were injured in the two-week period following the onset of menstruation, when progesterone levels are low.

The authors of the study noted that a blow to the head can shut down the pituitary gland in the brain which regulates a body’s hormones. The authors state, “If a woman suffers a concussion in the premenstrual phase when progesterone levels are naturally high, an abrupt drop in progesterone after injury produces a kind of withdrawal which either contributes to or worsens post concussive symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness and trouble concentrating.” If the concussion occurs when progesterone levels are already low, a similar “withdrawal” does not occur.

hoegerWomen who took birth control bills, and therefore had a more steady hormone level, showed the most improvement in recovery time from concussions, according to the study. Kathleen M. Hoeger, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and co-author of the study said, “Women who are very athletic get several benefits from the pill; it protects their bones and keeps their periods predictable. If larger studies confirm our data, this could be one more way in which the pill is helpful in athletic women, especially women who participate in sports like soccer that present lots of opportunities for head injuries.”

Dr. Hoeger is a graduate of Stanford University and the medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She also holds a master of public health degree from the University of Rochester.

The study, “Menstrual Phase as Predictor of Outcome After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Women,” was published on the website of the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. It may be accessed here.

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