Female Soccer Players More Prone to Brain Damage Than Men


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Women, seems to be like we would have one other factor to fret about — effectively, at the least for these of us who play soccer.

New, unpublished analysis, introduced in November on the annual Society for Neuroscience convention in Washington, D.C., suggests feminine soccer gamers expertise larger mind injury from heading the ball than males do. The damage happens in white matter tracts — the lengthy, branch-like nerve fibers, or axons, that reach from neurons, crisscross the mind and join totally different areas.

Recognizing the Variations

Practically 100 women and men, all beginner soccer gamers of their 20s and 30s, made up the participant pool. After taking everybody’s mind scans, the analysis workforce matched the photographs for a volunteer’s age and the way typically they’d headed a ball within the final 12 months. So for instance, researchers would have in contrast the mind scan of a 25-year-old feminine participant who’d headed possibly 200 occasions during the last 12 months with that of a 25-year-old male participant who’d accomplished the identical variety of passes along with his skull.

The distinction in how every gender responded to the identical variety of impacts was noticeable: Within the girls, eight totally different mind areas had injured white matter, whereas within the males, simply three did. And general, the ladies noticed a five-fold improve in affected tissue in comparison with males.

So, what might clarify the discrepancy?

“Ladies typically have been recognized to have extra signs that last more, with worse outcomes, following delicate head accidents than males,” says Michael Lipton, a professor of radiology and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein Faculty of Medication in New York, and one of many paper’s authors.

Previously, consultants thought these intercourse variations had been merely attributable to extra girls reporting signs in comparison with males. Nonetheless, Lipton says his analysis helps the concept the distinction is physiological.

There are two theories as to why girls expertise larger mind injury: biomechanics and intercourse hormones. Ladies usually have weaker neck muscle groups and decrease physique mass than males, so it’s attainable lady’s head (and mind) absorbs extra of the ball’s pressure than a person’s does.

Alternatively, it has been proposed that the intercourse hormone progesterone can defend towards traumatic mind damage. The ebb and move of progesterone throughout a girl’s month-to-month hormonal cycle — particularly when progesterone ranges decline — might go away her mind quickly extra weak to a ball hitting it at excessive speeds.

How A lot Is Too A lot?

No matter gender, for soccer gamers, the injury isn’t brought on by a single traumatic incident, like a concussion, however by repeated minor hits. As headers accumulate, the frequent impacts can set off irritation within the mind, ultimately resulting in neurodegeneration.

Lipton says there seems to be a threshold impact, because it appears these adjustments solely begin to crop up in individuals who head the ball greater than 1,000 occasions a 12 months. “There’s prone to be some extent of heading which might not be dangerous for most individuals… There’s additionally prone to be an quantity of heading that’s not good for anyone.”

Nonetheless, he cautions that some folks could also be extra weak than others. “This threshold is nearly definitely not the identical for everyone. It could be totally different for women and men, it might be totally different relying in your age, it might differ relying in your genetic susceptibility, your IQ, your neck energy,” he says. “We actually don’t know. The one method to actually perceive that is to do the arduous work to gather information and determine it out.”

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