MAY 18, 2018 7:56 AM PDT

The Gender Gap in Brain Research

Concussions can be life altering as well as life-threatening. Post-concussion syndrome is real and after a head injury, appropriate recovery time is essential to avoid long-term problems. There is also the concern over Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which is a neurobiological condition that can develop after head trauma. Symptoms of CTE include depression, aggression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

While most first think of football players and boxers because those sports have a high rate of head injuries, the fact is that more women are suffering TBIs than men, but they are historically overlooked in research. According to the group PINK Concussions, a female brain injury advocacy group, the largest brain bank in the world only contains ten brains from women. That's why the organization has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs National PTSD Brain Bank to encourage more women to donate their brains to medical research.

With the attention focused on male-dominated sports like hockey and football, women are overlooked in research studies. While men, in general, are at a higher risk for TBI since more men play high contact sports, head injuries are happening more frequently to women when the numbers are compared between women and men who play the same game, like those who play soccer or basketball. Because brain anatomy is different in women, concussions in females are often more severe and recovery time is longer.

Katherine Snedacker, the founder of PINK Concussions, stated, "We focus on brain injury including concussions through sports, domestic violence, accidents and military service. If you look at the traumatic brain injury brain banks, they've been mostly focusing on men through sports, military service. I have no criticism on anyone, but I think that the focus just wasn't there." In December the organization launched the PINK Brain Pledge to encourage women to donate their brains after they pass away. Having more brain tissue from female athletes and TBI patients can help researchers find better ways to treat head injuries in women.

RELATED: Concussion Infographic

While the lack of inclusion of women in brain research is troubling, another part of the problem is that women patients are often hesitant to describe their symptoms fully. There's a feeling among women that they will be seen as malingering or emotional if they complain about symptoms. Snedacker also runs a Facebook page with thousands of users who can get support and find out about medical research and studies on head trauma. While 96% of NFL football players that donated their brains for research after death were found to have CTE, there have been no cases of CTE in women, because the brain tissue isn't available for examination. Hopefully, with more awareness of the need for more women in brain studies, donations will increase. Professional soccer player Brandy Chastian has already pledged her brain for research as have Olympic athletes Elena Meyers Taylor, a bobsledder and Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenhieser, hockey players for Team USA and Team Canada, respectively. The video below has more information on the gender gap in vital brain research, check it out.

Sources: PINK Concussion, US News and World Report

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
APR 24, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 24, 2020
Teenage Cannabis Use May Prime the Brain to Enjoy Cocaine
New research has found that teenage cannabis use may make the brain more susceptible to the effects of cocaine. "It ...
APR 25, 2020
Cardiology
APR 25, 2020
Young People with COVID-19 Die from Stroke
Hospitals around the US have reported that people aged between 20 and 50 with no risk factors are dying from strokes aft ...
MAY 15, 2020
Neuroscience
MAY 15, 2020
Parents Change Each Other's Brain Activity When with Children
Researchers from Nanyang Technical University in Singapore have found that parents’ brains respond differently to ...
JUN 15, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 15, 2020
Revealing the Network of Neurons in the Heart
The autonomic nervous system is linked to the intrinsic cardiac nervous system (ICN), which is thought to help regulate ...
JUN 01, 2020
Neuroscience
JUN 01, 2020
New Path to Gene Therapy for ALS
Video: Todd Cohen, PhD (UNC) discusses GA protein accumulation.  At the time of this video promising research was a ...
JUN 30, 2020
Health & Medicine
JUN 30, 2020
UK Loosens Regulation on Prescription CBD for Epilepsy
Epidyolex-the epilepsy drug that contains the non-psychoactive cannabis chemical cannabidiol, or CBD-has been changed fr ...
Loading Comments...