The effects of sex differences and hormonal contraception on outcomes after collegiate sports-related concussion

Virginia Gallagher*, Natalie Kramer, Kristin Abbott, John Alexander, Hans Breiter, Amy Herrold, Tory Lindley, Jeffrey Mjaanes, James Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


There is conflicting evidence regarding whether females are more adversely affected after concussion than males. Further, recent research suggests that hormonal contraceptive (HC) use may affect symptom severity and duration post-concussion. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of sex and HC use on outcomes following concussion among collegiate varsity athletes. We hypothesized that females would have longer length of recovery (LOR), and that peak symptom severity would be associated with longer LOR in both males and females. Among females, we hypothesized that non-HC users would have longer LOR and higher peak symptom severity than HC users. Ninety collegiate student-athletes were included in this study (40 males, 50 females; 24 HC users, 25 non-HC users). Demographic, injury, and recovery information was abstracted via retrospective record review. LOR was defined as days between injury and clearance for full return to play by team physician. Peak symptom severity score (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool [SCAT] 2 or 3) was used in analyses. Study results revealed that males had shorter LOR than females (F[1, 86] = 5.021, p < 0.05, d = 0.49), but had comparable symptom severity scores. Symptom severity was strongly related to LOR for males (r = 0.513, p < 0.01) but not females (r = -0.003, p > 0.05). Among females, non-HC users demonstrated higher symptom severity than HC users (F[1,47] = 5.142, p < 0.05, d = 0.70). No significant differences between female HC users and non-HC users on LOR were observed. This study provides evidence for differential concussion outcomes between male and female collegiate athletes and between HC users and nonusers among females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1242-1247
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Concussion
  • HC
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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