Rutgers University Scholar Examining Whether There Are Gender Differences in Concussions

Carrie Esopenko, an assistant professor in the department of rehabilitation and movement science at Rutgers University in New Jersey is conducting research on whether there are gender differences in concussions, recovery time from such injuries, and the psychological effects of concussions on women.

Dr. Esopenko, with the cooperation of the university’s athletics programs, has conducted baseline tests of all varsity athletes and will follow-up with similar testing at the end of their seasons. Athletes who have suffered concussions will be tested two days, two weeks, and two months following a concussion.

“We would like to determine the best ways to preempt injuries,” Dr. Esopenko says. “For example, we are looking at how neck strength affects an injury’s severity. Concussions are a transfer of force. When males, who generally have stronger necks, hit their heads, we think the force is more likely to be transferred into the rest of the body compared to women, whose heads may take the brunt of the impact due to decreased neck strength.”

“We don’t understand the long-term outcomes of concussions, especially with female, college or recreational athletes who might not experience as many impacts as the pros,” Dr. Esopenko says. “The results of our studies can help us prevent and better diagnose injuries on the field and create a multidisciplinary team to provide the best care. No concussion is the same, no outcome is the same and no one person can treat all the symptoms.”

Dr. Esopenko is also looking at how suffering a concussion affects an athlete’s psychological health. She asks the question: “Are psychological issues caused by the fact that an athlete has a brain injury or does the brain injury unmask a psychological condition that causes prolonged impairment?” Dr. Esopenko adds that “our goal is to use this data to develop education programs to teach athletes the symptoms of mental health conditions resulting from injury and know how to get services.”

Dr. Esopenko is a graduate of the University of Calgary. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Saskatchewan.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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