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Do Traumatic Brain Injuries Affect Male and Female Victims Differently?

New Research Suggests Women May Experience TBI Differently

Much of the recent news surrounding traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) has focused on male victims.  In particular, safety advocates have focused on mostly male professional athletes in contact sports and the risk of head trauma.  While sports can result in concussions and head injuries with long-lasting effects, it is important to understand that TBIs cross gender lines, as one study published in the Journal of Women’s Health pointed out.

A recent article in Time Magazine cited a study in PLOS ONE that emphasized distinctions between male and female brains that have been subject to head trauma.  Specifically, the study indicates that girls who suffer traumatic brain injuries may be more susceptible to psychological distress and may take to smoking more often than their male counterparts.  In other words, sustaining a concussion or other TBI during teen years might lead to gender-specific problems down the road.

What changes occur more frequently in girls’ brains after undergoing a head injury? Based on the results of the study, which surveyed nearly 10,000 girls in grades 7 through 12, girls may be more likely to experience the following problems after sustaining a TBI:

  • Contemplating suicide;
  • Experiencing psychological distress;
  • Becoming the target of bullying; and
  • Smoking cigarettes.

Is this data accurate?  According to Dr. Geoffrey Manley, who serves as vice chairman of neurological surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, the discrepancy identified between male and female head trauma victims may not be actual, but instead could be the result of differing tendencies among men and women to report their symptoms.  Manley emphasized that, in his own research concerning TBIs, “women tend to be more forthcoming about their concussion symptoms than men.”

Gynecological Abnormalities After a TBI

While researchers cannot be sure about whether women experience more significant psychological after-effects from TBIs than their male counterparts, it is possible that women experience different physical symptoms.

The study in the Journal of Women’s Health followed a group of premenopausal women for anywhere from 5-12 years after they had sustained a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury.  These researchers examined the particular effects on physical and, in particular, reproductive health.  The study assessed “menstrual functioning, fertility, and pregnancy experiences before and after injury.”  The researchers also looked at rates of cervical cancer.

What did they find?  For about 68 percent of the women involved in the study, their menstrual cycles became irregular, and the severity of the injury dictated the severity of menstrual cycle disturbance.  In addition, more women who had experienced TBIs reported difficulties in the postpartum period.  On the whole, these women were also less likely to have regular Pap smears.

Identifying Traumatic Brain Injuries

Regardless of whether you are a male or female who has experienced head trauma, it is important to get medical treatment.  How can you know for certain whether you have experienced a traumatic brain injury and need to be seen by a physician?  In both men and women, the Mayo Clinic highlights specific physical and mental symptoms associated with TBIs.

Physical symptoms can include some of the following:

  • Loss of consciousness, confusion, or disorientation;
  • Headaches, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting;
  • Drowsiness and fatigue;
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less than usual);
  • Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, to changes to taste and smell; and
  • Sensitivity to sounds or lights.

Mental symptoms can include some of the following:

  • Problems with memory or concentration;
  • Mood swings; and
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression.

Contact an Experienced Brain Injury Lawyer

In many cases, brain injuries are preventable. When another person’s negligence or wrongdoing causes a concussion or other TBI, the victim can hold the wrongdoer responsible for damages resulting from that injury. If you or a loved one has sustained a TBI, you may be able to file a claim for financial compensation. You should contact an experienced brain injury attorney at the Rothenberg Law Firm to learn more about how we can assist you.

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