Sex Differences in Time to Return-to-Play Progression After Sport-Related Concussion

Sarah Stone*, Bobby Lee, J. Craig Garrison, Damond Blueitt, Kalyssa Creed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Recently, female sports participation has increased, and there is a tendency for women to experience more symptoms and variable presentation after sport-related concussion (SRC). The purpose of this study was to determine whether sex differences exist in time to begin a return-to-play (RTP) progression after an initial SRC. Hypothesis: After initial SRC, female athletes (11-20 years old) would take longer to begin an RTP progression compared with age-matched male athletes. Study Design: Retrospective cohort study. Level of Evidence: Level 3. Methods: A total of 579 participants (365 males [mean age, 15.0 ± 1.7 years], 214 females [mean age, 15.2 ± 1.5 years]), including middle school, high school, and collegiate athletes who participated in various sports and experienced an initial SRC were included and underwent retrospective chart review. The following information was collected: sex, age at injury, sport, history of prior concussion, date of injury, and date of initiation of RTP progression. Participants with a history of more than 1 concussion or injury sustained from non–sport-related activity were excluded. Results: Despite American football having the greatest percentage (49.2%) of sport participation, female athletes took significantly longer to start an RTP progression after an initial SRC (29.1 ± 26.3 days) compared with age-matched male athletes (22.7 ± 18.3 days; P = 0.002). Conclusion: On average, female athletes took approximately 6 days longer to begin an RTP progression compared with age-matched male athletes. This suggests that sex differences exist between athletes, aged 11 to 20 years, with regard to initiation of an RTP progression after SRC. Clinical Relevance: Female athletes may take longer to recover after an SRC, and therefore, may take longer to return to sport. Sex should be considered as part of the clinical decision-making process when determining plan of care for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-44
Number of pages4
JournalSports Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • concussion
  • return-to-play progression
  • sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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