Football grabs headlines, but high school female soccer players suffer most concussions
EUGENE, Ore. - Around 300,000 adolescents suffer concussions while participating in high school sports each year.
For Allyson Gayle, it happened in October at soccer practice.
"It was nerve-wracking and really scary," the Willamette High School freshman said.
"I was going, dribbling for the ball and being as aggressive as I could," Allyson said, " and, a girl came behind me, and she obviously didn't mean to, but she came up behind me and kind of leaned into my head."
Allyson and her teammate collided, head-to-head.
"My coach took me to the sideline and I sat down," she said. "Everything was kind of spinning and it was hard for me to concentrate on one thing."
"She got home," said Alan Gayle, Allyson's father, "and her mom brought her in the door and it was obvious right away that she was wobbly. And so, I asked what's going on?"
It turned out be Allyson's first concussion.
"So we got on each side of her and helped her wobble up the stairwell and almost kind of end up carrying her to bed where she went on to sleep almost three days solid," Alan said.
Headlines about concussions and football are common.
But this year, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons said "high school girls have a significantly higher concussion rate than boys, with female soccer players suffering the most concussions."
Each patient is different
Allyson's physical therapist says she now suffers from post-concussive syndrome and has a concurrent problem with her vesitbular system.
"So really, her inner ear function," said Lyndsey Roper. "That's why she gets the symptom of dizziness, nausea, sense of vertigo, which really means she doesn't feel she's still even when she is still."
Roper says each patient is different. Symptoms can last months, or even years.
Allyson has been recovering for over a month now.
"Her brain is having to work overtime, not only to recover from the concussion, but also to manage this vestibular component, which is really driving a lot of her other symptoms," Roper said.
The impacts go beyond participation in sports.
"It was really hard to go back to school and everything like that," Allyson said.
"I've seen more tangible injuries - I've had sprained ankles, hurt shoulders, knee injuries," her father, Alan, said. "So to see something that's actually affecting her cognitive brain skills took me back a little bit, because it's not an injury you can see."
Alan is a coach for Kidsports. Ever year, coaches like him watch a video on concussion protocol.
"Actually was never on my mind," he said of his daugther's own participation in soccer. "I guess you don't really think about those things until they happen to you."
Female high school athletes suffer more concussions
Dr. Michael Koester has been practicing sports medicine in Eugene for almost 12 years. He says girls often take longer to recover from concussions.
And when looking at comparable sports - such as girls basketball to boys basketball, or softball to baseball - one gender suffers more concussions than the other.
"We look at the high school level, we look at girls compared to boys for concussion rates - girls are much higher," Koester said.
So why does football grab all the headlines when it comes to concussion news?
"A lot of that's trickle-down," Koester said. "The NFL is a big target and a big area of focus, and it has been since the beginning of looking at concussion. And that's what we hear about when we hear about these long-term issues of people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, multiple concussions."
In 2009, Oregon passed legislation that requires coaches in each school district to receive annual training for recognizing symptoms of a concussion, and how to seek medical treatment for someone suspected of having a concussion.
The law says:
"A student athlete showing signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion or diagnosed with a concussion may not return to play until receiving medical release form from a medical professional, or when the athlete no longer exhibits the signs of a concussion."