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
AUG 17, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Severe daytime sleepiness? A new drug can help: FDA approves Xywav to treat idiopathic hypersomnia.
AUG 17, 2021
Severe daytime sleepiness? A new drug can help: FDA approves Xywav to treat idiopathic hypersomnia.
     Being tired throughout the day is a common feeling for most individuals. In fact, 1 out of every 5 A ...
AUG 21, 2021
Neuroscience
Is Humor the Best Way to Deliver Public Health Interventions?
AUG 21, 2021
Is Humor the Best Way to Deliver Public Health Interventions?
Humor is an effective way to deliver public health interventions and influence people’s behavior around their heal ...
SEP 22, 2021
Technology
Routine Blood Test May Show Link Between Schizophrenia and Cardiovascular Disease
SEP 22, 2021
Routine Blood Test May Show Link Between Schizophrenia and Cardiovascular Disease
It is well documented that people with schizophrenia are at higher risk of developing metabolic disorders, a collection ...
SEP 21, 2021
Health & Medicine
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
SEP 21, 2021
The (Not So) Secret To A Happy Life: Fruits, Vegetables, and Exercise
Researchers uncover causal link between a healthy lifestyle and satisfaction with life.
SEP 27, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Nudging Closer to a Sustainable Future
SEP 27, 2021
Nudging Closer to a Sustainable Future
Attitudes toward sustainable solutions have rapidly changed in the last few decades as environmental issues like climate ...
OCT 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Can a Blood Test Guide Prognosis for Traumatic Brain Injury?
OCT 19, 2021
Can a Blood Test Guide Prognosis for Traumatic Brain Injury?
Jim had been skateboarding since he was seven years old and spent hours a day practicing. He had been in local competiti ...
Loading Comments...