Women, Girls, and Traumatic Brain Injury

Approximately 30% of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur in women and girls. Research has shown that there are some gender differences in physiological, cognitive, psychological, and functional outcomes after TBI.

Some of these outcomes can be attributed to biological factors that do not apply to men. For example, hormonal changes that are common after a TBI can affect maturation and reproductive function in females. Amenorrhea is another common problem for women after TBI.

Other outcomes may have more to do with physician-patient interaction. For instance, clinicians may take a generalist approach and downplay or ignore concerns that are more common among women than men. Studies have found that women are more likely to report negative interactions with medical and rehabilitation professionals than men. In addition, women with TBI may be stereotyped and stigmatized as being promiscuous or sexually disinhibited.

Gender differences after TBI should be acknowledged and addressed by clinicians. Girls who have sustained a TBI are, in particular, at risk for future misinterpretations of symptoms.

Harris JE, Colantonio A, Bushnik T, et al. Advancing the health and quality-of-life of girls and women after traumatic brain injury: Workshop summary and recommendations. Brain Injury. (February 2012).

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