By Robert Preidt
Health Day reporter
TUESDAY, July 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) – Soccer balls pose a much greater threat to women’s brains than men’s, according to a new study.
The study involved 49 female and 49 amateur soccer players, aged between 18 and 50 years old. They reported a number of headings similar to that of the previous year (an average of 487 headings for men and 469 for women).
Brain scans revealed that the damaged white matter regions in the brain were five times larger in women than in men.
“Researchers and clinicians have long noted that women fare worse than men after a head injury, but some said it was only because women were more willing to report symptoms,” said study director Dr Michael Lipton.
“Based on our study, which measured objective changes in brain tissue rather than self-reported symptoms, women appear to be more likely than men to experience brain trauma after running soccer balls,” Lipton said. .
The results suggest that gender-specific guidelines for football may be needed, the study’s authors said.
Lipton is Professor of Radiology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Medical Director of MRI Services at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Around 30 million women and girls play football around the world, according to the International Federation of Association Football.
It’s unclear why women might be more susceptible to head trauma than men, but differences in neck strength, sex hormones or genetics could be factors, the researchers suggested.
The brain changes in the women in the study produced no noticeable symptoms, such as reduced thinking skills, but are still of concern, the researchers said.
“In various brain injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) [a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma], subclinical pathology develops before we can detect brain damage that affects function, ”explained Lipton.
“So, before serious dysfunction occurs, it’s wise to identify risk factors for cumulative brain damage – like the head if you’re female – so people can take action to prevent further damage and maximize recovery, ”he said.
The study, published online July 31 in the journal Radiology, raises the question of whether football players should stop walking altogether.
“We have conducted several studies showing that most players seem to tolerate a certain level of heading,” Lipton said in a press release.
“Rather than banning headers altogether – which is probably not realistic – we would like to get a better idea of how many headers are going to get players in trouble,” he said. “What’s important about this study is that men and women may need to be looked at differently.”