Girls twice as likely to suffer concussions playing football than boys, study shows

·3-min read

Teenage girls who play football are at a higher risk of concussion compared to their male counterparts, research has found.

The study was conducted by Professor Willie Stewart, of the University of Glasgow, who reviewed three years of injury data for about 4,000 female high-school footballers in the United States.

Prof Stewart compared data for a similar number of male footballers and found the risk of sports-related concussion among female footballers was 1.88 times higher - almost double.

The study also suggests teenage girls are less likely to be removed from play and take on average two days longer to recover from injury than boys do.

Male footballers were most often injured colliding with another player, while female players were most often injured from contact with the ball or a goalpost.

Prof Stewart said: "Given we know the importance of immediate removal from play for any athlete with suspected concussion, it is notable that 'if in doubt, sit them out' appears more likely to happen for boys than girls."

"This, together with the finding that mechanism of injury appears different between boys and girls, suggests that there might be value in sex-specific approaches to concussion education and management in this age group."

The results of the study come after outgoing Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor addressed a parliamentary inquiry into concussion in sport and long-term brain injury.

When asked by the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Julian Knight, if the union had been "asleep at the wheel" over the matter, Mr Taylor replied: "We've never been asleep on it."

Ex-footballer Chris Sutton has accused Mr Taylor of having "blood on his hands" over the issue.

Sutton's father Mike, a former professional player, died in December last year after suffering from dementia.

Asked whether Sutton was right, Mr Taylor said: "It is a very emotive subject. Chris Sutton is one of those people who I speak to in a civilised manner.

"I tried to explain, he was offered help in regards to his father who was a contemporary of mine when I was playing.

"He was offered the chance to come in, see what we are doing and what we plan to do in the future.

"I am always prepared to put my head above the parapet because what we do needs to be out there. I am more than prepared to do that with anybody."

In 2020, two of England's World Cup-winning football heroes, Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles, died after suffering from dementia.

It emerged that Jack's brother, Sir Bobby Charlton, had also been diagnosed with the degenerative disease, reigniting the conversation about a possible link between it and the sport.

In October 2019, a study found former footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia than non-players in the same age range.

The report, commissioned by the FA and the PFA, assessed the medical records of 7,676 men who played professional football between 1900 and 1976.

Campaigners believe there is a link between dementia and repetitive heading of the ball or collisions