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Why women’s ice hockey has a higher concussion rate than football

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When college athletes play the same sport, women report concussions more often than men.

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In college, women’s hockey players are reporting concussions at a higher rate than male hockey players. In fact, female hockey players are reporting a higher concussion rate than nearly all sports sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In several studies, female hockey players have reported concussions more often than men’s college football, and at a rate that is comparable to men’s college wrestling and men’s college ice hockey.

Compared to sports like women’s tennis or women’s basketball, hockey is faster, played on harder surfaces, and involves more collisions, which partly explains the high rate of concussions but doesn’t account for the fact that female athletes are reporting more concussions than male athletes who also play hockey. In fact, several surveys have demonstrated that, besides hockey, female athletes consistently report a higher concussion rate than male athletes playing the same gender comparable sport (e.g basketball, soccer, softball/baseball).

The reasons why are unclear, but this video highlights some of the plausible factors, including: gender bias, reporting bias, differences in style of play (for example, body checking is allowed in men’s hockey and is illegal in women’s hockey), hormonal differences (progesterone is of particular interest to researchers), neck strength, and differences in the structure of nerve fibers called axons.

To help understand how these factors might influence the concussion rates, this video features interviews with University of North Carolina researcher Zachary Kerr and retired US Women’s Hockey player Josephine Pucci, who ended her career following several concussions. To hear her story of how she came back to win a 2014 Olympic Silver Medal while playing on the Harvard Women’s team, make sure to watch the video above.

Resources:

Headway Foundation: http://headwayfoundation.com/
PINK Concussions: http://www.pinkconcussions.com/
CDC Heads Up Initiative: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_prevention.html

Sources:

Concussion Surveys:
2007 epidemiology (Journal of Athletic Training):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941297/
2010 7-year review of women's ice hockey injuries (Canadian Journal of Surgery)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20858376
2012 study (Journal of Neurosurgery):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23199425
2014 survey (NCAA):
https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Concussion%20%20GOALS%20Exec%20Summary_Feb_12_2014_FINALpost_0.pdf
2014 research paper on injuries in women's ice hockey (Current Sports Medicine Reports):
http://bit.ly/2EHXLOk
2015 epidemiology (The American Journal of Sports Medicine):
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363546515599634?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

Further Research:

2014 research on neck strength (The Journal of Primary Prevention):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24930131
2014 research on hormonal influence (Journal of Head Trauma):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24220566
2017 research on nerve fiber structure (University of Pennsylvania/Experimental Neurology):
https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/november/women-may-be-more-vulnerable-to-concussions-because-of-leaner-nerve-fibers-penn-study-suggests
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104114

Hockey Manuals:

USA Hockey Checking Manual:
http://assets.ngin.com/attachments/document/0042/6379/Checking_Manual_FINAL.pdf
USA Hockey Introduction to Body Contact:
http://assets.ngin.com/attachments/document/0020/3311/IntroductiontoBodyContact.pdf

Additional Sources:

2007 women’s Hockey epidemiology (Journal of Athletic Training):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941287/
“Concussion” Chapter 15, “Sex Differences in Sports Medicine” by Dunbar and Putukian, 2016.

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50 Comments

    Popular Comments:

Vox . 2018-02-14
A note on the data: Many of you have noticed that the survey cited at 0:24 contradicts the fact that female athletes report concussions at a higher rate than men playing a comparable sport. However, despite that data point, the general understanding, established through many years of study by different researchers using a variety of methods, is that women do report higher rates of concussion. Although I wasn't able to squeeze all the data in the video, I've listed several sources in the description above. If you'd like to learn more, make sure to check them out. Thanks for watching! -Mac
121 2 . Reply
OG Aley . 2019-02-18
Woman are more fragile in general and have less muscle and bone mass. case closed
121 2 . Reply
Sam Stevens . 2019-02-17
The video is titled “why women have more concussions” but then they say that experts don’t know why. Hmmmm....
121 2 . Reply
Gigi Z . 2019-02-16
You calling females weak..... REEEEEE
121 2 . Reply
Coldbeef Bryant . 2019-02-13
Because they cant take as many hits as men. Your question answered in 1 sentence.
121 2 . Reply
madeniran is the Best . 2019-02-12
When I get hit hard, most of the time I try to get up.
And when I’m hurt and my bone is broken( hands), I’m still getting up, and I’m still trying to play
But a scratch got nothing on me, but if my left foot is broken and I can’t walk, I’m going to stay down
121 2 . Reply
Alexisasheep . 2019-02-11
I feel like whenever you talk about women at all people screw off their heads and start yelling generally hateful and baseless things and then don't understand why women have to fight for equality still.
121 2 . Reply
Will Lacey . 2019-02-08
My son played football he left the field because of an injury when he felt better and wanted to return to the game they wouldn't let him he said to me I will never leave the field again unless I cant walk off the field I don't know maybe this is a factor
121 2 . Reply
Flashed4Life . 2019-02-08
It’s because there woman. They’re wimps lol
121 2 . Reply
emisoccer • . 2019-02-07
50% is because women are more likely to report it and the other half is women’s body is weaker
121 2 . Reply
Wesley Ramberg . 2019-02-05
Because men have tougher heads.
121 2 . Reply
Gervante Summers . 2019-02-03
Because women belong in the kitchen
121 2 . Reply
Lexi Mck . 2019-02-01
I'm a girl that plays hockey
121 2 . Reply
SE Games . 2019-01-31
It’s because they have bigger brains and have less room to move around without being hurt
121 2 . Reply
ASEC Mimosas . 2019-01-30
People love the idea of the reporting distinction because its nebulous and undefinable. The reality is that rules are set up in modern NCAA sports and have been for a decade and more now that prohibitively force men to be checked for concussions after high impact plays, and a lot more technology has been introduced to monitor impact. So appealing to what amounts to a stereotype that is from a different time is not particularly helpful.
121 2 . Reply
1BigBasket . 2019-01-30
I feel it’s not just reporting it. I’ve been playing hockey for a while and going against a girls team is tough. Not in a bad way but they are vicious and definitely a challenge to play against.
121 2 . Reply
Master ChineseMan . 2019-01-27
i mean i wacthed the 2016 girls olympics vs one of my local AAA hockey team and the girls were playing with there heads down trying to go through everyone and the boys weren’t allowed to hit and you can just tell by the way they skate there always looking for somebody to hit them and they play more cautions while the girls just except nobody to hit em btw it was a 14 year old AAA team and they beat the olympic team
121 2 . Reply
Dylan Lasuandaqua . 2019-01-24
Ovechkin smiles
121 2 . Reply
Justine Barnum . 2019-01-24
Why do I read YouTube comments when I know most of them are dumbasses? 🤦🏻‍♀️
121 2 . Reply
majda breliof . 2019-01-14
That's why my parents only agreed on me playing volleyball, they were so against soccer because of injuries
Thank you mom and dad
121 2 . Reply
ViolentOrchid . 2019-01-14
Not having checking in women's hockey just seems super sexist to me, it's like the arguments against women's ski jumping the Olympics used to make.
121 2 . Reply
sk8r4lyf6969 . 2019-01-11
Doesn’t surprise me
121 2 . Reply
john scott . 2019-01-10
A midget AAA team (15-16) lost to Canadian women's Olympic team 2-1 lol. Also they weren't allowed to hit
121 2 . Reply
demonpride1975 . 2019-01-06
1. women's skulls are not as thick as men's.
2. who knew smashing your head into solid ice would hurt so much, even with a helmet on.
3. comparing a sport played on solid ice, to astro turf.

dun dun dun.
121 2 . Reply
Felix Bisson . 2019-01-05
They dont even hit
121 2 . Reply
Chris Hammer . 2019-01-01
I think she solved it herself...Male hockey players are conditioned since teenage years to handle hits, thus their neck strength is stronger and they're used to taking an impact. In I think 2012 percy harvin (american football player) couldnt play for 6 months because of a hamstring injury, and the first game he played was concussed with a tackle that wasn't that scary.
121 2 . Reply
Barack Obama . 2018-12-28
I play AAA hockey and I feel like I’ve had concussions before but I don’t say anything. Why? You’re coach won’t play you as much, in some cases parents pull the plug. Also on my team players joke about concussions so to me I think it’s the fact that males don’t want to look weak.
121 2 . Reply
Kate Miller . 2018-12-27
I think with the men they (unfairly, and unfortunately) are paid more in athletics so they feel they have more to lose. While women only get a small fraction compared to the salary of a male athlete so they might not see the salary as worth risking their health
121 2 . Reply
Hare Brahs . 2018-12-27
ez, they dont hit so the dont know how to take a hit and protect themselves.
121 2 . Reply
Max Matejcik . 2018-12-27
At the beginning Tyler Motte scored a goal after his bloody nose
121 2 . Reply
the.mighty.kyuss . 2018-12-23
Men just less likely to admit they got hit that hard hah.

And wtf, they can't check in woman's hockey? That's a major major part of the game..
121 2 . Reply
Ryan J . 2018-12-22
That’s just because 60% of all those others sports we wouldn’t risk missing playing time by reporting it. Not saying it’s makes you tough or smart but it’s true
121 2 . Reply
David Reyna . 2018-12-21
Fragiler bodies! You're welcome.
121 2 . Reply
Some Person . 2018-12-20
Our bodies are built much differently. Men's bodies were for the abuse of hunting and gathering, women's were for maintaining camp. I'm not saying this to be a mysoginyst, it's just how we evolved. Men's bodies have extra "padding" to fight animals or each other, parts of men's brains don't work the same and can sustain more damage without as much displayed outwardly. I was also going to jump to checking when you brought it up. Males players use the boards to watch for hits too, it's just what you do is watch your own back on the boards. So many factors, such a fascinating study...
121 2 . Reply
David Goodwin . 2018-12-20
Plus men report their concussions less so they can play more 😂
121 2 . Reply
David Goodwin . 2018-12-20
Literally all of those studies had different answers bruh
121 2 . Reply
Austin Ayers . 2018-12-20
Im not joking i might have gotten several concussions while playing football. I would even puke after games cause my head hurt and other boys did too, but never said anything about it cause you would lose playing time if you even said your head hurt
121 2 . Reply
Massimo . 2018-12-18
VOX mentality = Everything is cultural and social nothing is from a biological natural result lol
121 2 . Reply
Brian Smith . 2018-12-16
There is no mystery here. The answer starts at 4:12.
121 2 . Reply
Nathan Krieger . 2018-12-16
Men’s hockey and women’s hockey aren’t “comparable sports”
121 2 . Reply
J S . 2018-12-15
It’s because women have walnut brains and they rattle around in their heads
121 2 . Reply
DAJ Mayn . 2018-12-15
Who cares.. if they sue the league for a year or 2 worth of salary itll cost like 60 grand
121 2 . Reply
Devon MacDonald . 2018-12-14
I dont run to the doctor everytime I fart like a woman does. This Canuck could easily hang with these women at 48 yrs.
121 2 . Reply
Julius Kolari . 2018-12-14
Women's hockey players do not know how to take or make a hit so it leads to more concussions
121 2 . Reply
DurdyClaude . 2018-12-14
Considering womens hockey has no hitting.....full cage-helmets...I don't see how this could be true....
121 2 . Reply
Paula Ceron . 2018-12-14
I love how this was on my recommended as I'm sitting here going through my third concussion
121 2 . Reply
Kash Minion . 2018-12-14
2:42 women are more knowledgeable Smh
121 2 . Reply
Mastalgic . 2018-12-14
Sports are a normal thing we play to have fun and, it encourages competitiveness which makes us try to better our selves to attempt to be better than the other. In almost any sport you play injuries happen. What are we supposed to do live in a cocoon the rest of our lives because we may hurt ourselves, that's ridiculous.
121 2 . Reply
Pyroman / . 2018-12-14
I no my buddy hid a few concussions in hockey didn't wanna miss a scouts he's a guy actually a school coach in my town was fired a few years ago for telling the guys to lie and telling them how to beat the pre screen test so they didn't get taking in back for a full test it starts when guys are young alot coach's think there helping them but just setting them up to not report later
121 2 . Reply
Pyroman / . 2018-12-14
More money in male sports they more of a reason to cover concussions up not worth the risk for woman's hockey
121 2 . Reply