Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels during a menstrual cycle can lead to poorer outcomes in women who receive concussions. A study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation found that the menstrual cycle can have a negative influence on a woman’s concussion symptoms following her injury.
Researchers analyzed 144 women with concussions to determine their neurologic outcomes and quality of life one month after injury. A blood test measuring progesterone levels was used to determine each woman’s stage of the menstrual cycle. Researchers found that women who were injured during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, when progesterone was at its highest (luteal phase), had worse post-concussion symptoms compared with women injured during the first two weeks, when progesterone was low (follicular phase) and with those who were taking contraceptive pills.
The levels of progesterone, which has a calming effect and can improve cognition, memory, and mood, can change after a concussion, too. When women receive a blow to the head during the luteal phase, progesterone production slows to create a sense of withdrawal, making concussion symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, and nausea, worse.
When comparing mild traumatic brain injury rates by gender within the same sport (soccer, basketball, soft-ball/baseball), females experience a higher rate of mild traumatic brain injury than their male counterparts at both high school and collegiate levels.
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Romeu-Mejia, Rafael et al. “Concussion Pathophysiology and Injury Biomechanics.” Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine vol. 12,2 (2019): 105-116. doi:10.1007/s12178-019-09536-8