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Study Looks at Women, Concussions and Menstrual Cycles

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Rochester: Study Looks at Women, Concussions and Menstrual Cycles
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She's been playing soccer since grade school.

"I think my favorite thing about it is no game is ever the same," said Allison Bernstein.

Allison is a goalie for the University of Rochester. It's a position where you can take your knocks.

"I always say you have to be a little crazy to do it."

Still, she felt lucky to be back at practice, because of one play which happened during a game in September.

"I don't actually remember the moment of impact."

She'd collided head-first with an opposing player on this field during a save opportunity.

"You know, I've taken knocks before. Never something that severe to the head."

At first, she felt okay, but the next day, "I felt like it was in slow motion, like everything was slowed down, that I was slowed down."

Classic symptoms of a concussion.

"The very next day I felt so much worse, you know? If I would have gone back in the game and got hit again it would have been a really bad thing."

Researchers at the University of Rochester have conducted extensive studies on sports-related concussions, and there's a disparity between how they impact males and females.

"Boys and girls playing the same sport, like lacrosse or soccer, the girls actually have a higher risk of having the concussion than the boys," said Dr. Jeff Bazarian.

Bazarian and other researchers set out to find out why, and during research, determined that the severity of a woman's concussion, and her ability to recover, may depend on that time of the month.

"Those that got concussed during the second two weeks of their cycle, when progesterone levels were high, did worse than those who got concussed during the first two weeks of their cycle, where this hormone was really low."

Woman on birth control also had a more favorable outcome.

Bazarian says the study could help doctors and trainers better identify who might need more aggressive monitoring or treatment, following a concussion.

Concussions in general seem to get more press now, than ever before. Bazarian says when it comes to research, studies focus more on men, than women.

Bazarian has led studies involving the U of R football team, using helmets that measure blows to the heads of male players.

Regarding women, he says more research is needed.

"I think that will help validate what we've shown with this one study, but maybe help intervene and help women that get concussed during that second phase of that cycle better."

Bernstein's concussion kept her out of action for five weeks.

"I was frustrated. You know, it was my senior year, my senior season. I really wanted to get back out on the field," she said.

She did for her team's last three games, and now, glad that she didn't rush back.

"In hindsight, I'm really grateful for them having been so careful."

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