Teen Girls Who Play Soccer Are at High Risk for Concussions

By Dr Kristie

The risk of concussions is always a concern when a teen plays sports. Most parents think this type of head injury occurs mostly in boys who play football, but girls who play soccer are also at greater risk. How high is the risk of sports concussion in athletic girls who play soccer?

Sports Concussions and Girls Who Play Soccer

In an article published in Family Practice News, researchers looked retrospectively at concussion rates among teen athletes from 25 high schools in Fairfax County, Virginia over an 11 year period. During this time, almost 2,500 concussions occurred. Not surprisingly, the highest rate of sports concussions was for teens that played football, which accounted for 53% of all concussions.

Girls who played soccer had the second highest risk of sports concussions, accounting for 7% of the total. This added up to about 0.35 concussions per 1,000 athletic exposures, significantly more than sports concussions among girls who participated in other sports such as cheerleading or baseball.

More bad news for girls who play sports. In sports that both boys and girls play such as baseball, soccer and basketball, girls had double the risk of sports concussions compared to the guys.

Why Are Sports Concussions More Common in Athletic Girls?

No one knows for sure why athletic girls are more prone to concussions than boys who play sports. Some researchers hypothesize that boys may be protected by their larger muscle mass, which absorbs some of the force of an injury so that it’s less likely to affect the brain. There’s also the thought that boys are less likely to report concussion symptoms and more likely to continue to play through their symptoms, so a mild concussion could go undetected.

Disturbingly, the number of sports concussions has increased in frequency among both girls and boys playing all sports, and no one knows exactly why. It may due to the increasingly aggressive nature of sports – or to improved diagnosis.

The Bottom Line?

Sports concussions among girls who play soccer is high – second only to football. It’s important that coaches and parents be aware of the symptoms of concussion and get medical attention for any teen that has them. No child or teen with a concussion should return to sports practice until he or she is completely symptom-free – and the transition back in should be gradual.

Head injuries are nothing to take lightly, and both athletic girls and boys are at high risk for them. Be cautious when you send your teen out to play sports.


Family Practice News. February 2011. pages 10-11.

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