More than 3.8 million people experience concussion each year in the U.S. as a result of sports or physical activity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; but a majority of Americans are not aware that concussion affect males and females differently.
"My head really hurt and my ears were ringing," says Carma Caceres, a senior at St. Teresa High School in Decatur.
Caceres got a concussion for the first time on Wednesday while playing flag football.
"It's really hard to concentrate. My eyes wander. Thinking too hard, reading, and too much screen time causes a migraine. It's awful. I've been taking Tylenol every six hours," says Caceres.
A new report by the Women's Sports Safety Initiative finds nearly two thirds of Americans are not aware concussions affect men and women differently. The study finds 80% did not know hormonal differences in men and women play a role in determining concussion rates.
"It's the child-bearing years with hormone fluctuations that there are physiological differences that contribute to concussion in females that not only make them more frequent and more easily injured, but symptoms can be more prolonged than in a male," explains Dr. Terry Balagna, an Emergency Physician at HSHS St. Mary's Hospital.
The Journal of Athletic Training reports a female hockey player experiences a concussion once every 1,100 games or practices, which equates to nearly three times the rate men experience in similar sports.
"The worst is women's college hockey. For the more common sports, especially in this area, softball, basketball, and soccer are the three primary areas that have been studied. Two to three times the amount of female concussions occur in those sports than males," says Dr. Balagna.
As for Caceres, she says concussions are not something to take lightly.
"I did not take concussions seriously," says Caceres, "I definitely thought it was an injury that wasn't really an injury; that people were complaining to complain. I regret saying everything I said because it is a serious injury and it needs to be taken seriously."
The study concludes more female-focused research needs to be done to better understand why women concuss more than men, as well as more return-to-play guidelines.