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The gender gap in concussion research leaves female athletes struggling

Hailey Hodgson has had an Olympic dream since childhood.

“No doubt, an Olympic gold medal,” Hudson told CBS News.

Hudson excelled as a star volleyball player at Stanford, but suffered an injury during practice during what her coaches called a “courage” drill.

“It really felt like target practice,” Hodson said. “And I was the target.”

Haley said less than two weeks later he took another ball to the head, in almost the same spot.

“The rest of the season is obviously a blur,” Hodson said. “It was so far from, like, pain or, like, a sadness, I was like, ‘I’m not functional’.”

A CBS News investigation examined the gender gap in research on injured players. Most research on the impact of concussions on athletes is based on men, who are leaving women without their needs.

A study published in 2021 in the journal Research in Sports Medicine found that the number of young female athletes being treated for seizures has tripled over the past twenty years. However, 80% of sports concussion research has focused on men, according to a 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“It’s always the obvious instances that you don’t see, where a concussion happens,” said Brianna Scarry, who won gold medals for the U.S. women’s national soccer team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Briana Scurry

FILE — Brianna Scurry of the United States during the women’s soccer gold medal match between Brazil and the United States on August 26, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Olympics at Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens, Greece.

Sean Botterill/Getty Images

Scarry said it was a knee directly to his temple during a 2010 game in Philadelphia that sent his career—and his life—into a tailspin.

“I had this headache that was radiating from behind my left ear every day for three years,” Scarry said.

Asked if enough is known about concussions in women’s sports, she was declarative.

“Absolutely not,” she replied.

“Your daughter is more likely to get concussed playing soccer than your son,” cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Chris D’Lauro told CBS News. “But 80% of the data is from male patients who are more like your son.”

D’Loro co-authored last year’s study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. That study found that “female athletes are more likely to be injured than male athletes in the same sport.”

“If we’re going to take care of our athletes, we need to have information to equip all of our physicians, our coaches, our administrators so that they feel empowered to take care of their own brains,” D’Loro said.

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Nicky Batiste

Nicky Batiste

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