Kiwi research shows women take longer to recover from concussions than men

Scientists are now trying to find out whether concussion affects women differently from men. That comes as Kiwi research shows women take longer to recover from concussions.

Event rider Elise Power lives for horses but she knows the importance of safety following three major concussions.

"The first one I had was definitely the worst, it was instant and I couldn't walk straight, I couldn't think straight, I didn't know where I was, what day it was, that kind of thing, it was quite major," says Power.

But the 21-year-old hasn't really considered the long-term repercussions.

"I guess I know that the more I have, the worse it'll get, but I've never been warned of the long-term symptoms of them and issues I might have."

Concussion is a serious injury to the brain.  It could be from a knock to the head, or just a jolt to the body.  It's the rapid movement of the head that causes the brain to bounce around in the skull, damaging the brain cells.

New Zealand data shows it's taking women taking longer to recover, and now researchers are trying to find out why.

"It could be for a whole different range of reasons, so it may be due to symptom reporting, but it may be due to hormonal changes, so we tend to see these sex differences coming in after puberty, and it may also be due to changes in the brain structure, says Alice Theadom, an associate professor at Auckland University of Technology. 

"So it may be that they're more vulnerable to brain injury and take longer to recover."

It's important to find out because men and women may require different health advice.

"If there are these differences between male and female brains that are affecting recovery it may be that our expectations are slightly different so for males it might take seven days before they return to sport, for a female it might take 13 days?" says Theadom.

There are an estimated 36,000 head injuries in New Zealand each year, with than 20 percent sustained through sport.

National concussion guidelines say, if a concussion is suspected, remove from play or activity immediately and seek an urgent assessment by a medical doctor.

Theadom says if anyone still experiences symptoms after seven days, they should return to the doctor.

Meanwhile, Power says she's become more aware of the dangers, and balances safety with her love of riding.

"I think it's definitely made me more cautious and aware of what can go wrong when I'm riding but it definitely hasn't put me off and I don't think it really will."