Study to look at concussion in women’s contact sport

Richard Dinnen - Queensland Editor |

Women who play contact sports are more likely to get concussion than men
Women who play contact sports are more likely to get concussion than men

A Queensland researcher hopes to find out why women who play contact sports are more likely to get concussion than men.

Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by body contact that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

James Cook University PhD candidate, Catherine de Hollander, wants to hear from female athletes who compete in rugby league, rugby union, or Australian rules football in Townsville, ahead of the 2023 season.

“We know female athletes are more likely to get concussions and they’re typically more severe than those experienced by males.

“We’re trying to understand if that’s because women endure more head injuries on the field over the course of a season, or if women are actually more susceptible to such an injury.

“Women’s participation in contact sports is increasing, but the research hasn’t.”

The three year study will measure the impact of collisions on short-term and long-term health.

Ms de Hollander will use 20 specially designed mouthguards to record data of player movements in real-time, including acceleration, velocity, and direction of impact.

“We want to be able to get a long-term picture of the effects of concussion, which would contribute to research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy.’

“If players do leave their teams, the mouthguards can be remoulded only once more for a new player. Theoretically, we have the ability to monitor up to 40 players over the course of the study.”

The research will also look at hits classed as below the threshold for concussion, where the brain is shaken but not enough to cause severe damage.

Ms de Hollander said she decided on this field of research after she experienced a bad concussion playing sport.

“Studies have shown that the long-term impact of concussion can result in poor mental health, concentration issues, memory loss, migraines or mood disorders.

“My own recovery from concussion took six months, which was very frustrating because all the doctors could do was send me for brain scans.

“The scans came back normal but I was housebound for four months and then returned to work. But I would slur my words, I would forget them and I would get headaches and dizziness.”

Ms de Hollander is hoping to find volunteers from one contact sports team for the study but is open to monitoring a second team as well.

Email Catherine de Hollander to get involved in the research.