Gender differences in outcome after TBI – are there really?
It seems that researchers these days are really trying to look at the differences between men and women in brain injury. When I started practicing in this area, the new research was about whiplash-type injuries and the discussion looked at the female physiology (slimmer necks and less musculature in the neck and upper back) and how that could lead to more headaches, neck pain and even more traumatic brain injuries after being in a rear end collision. However, current research is more focused on symptoms and recovery following TBI.
In “Gender differences in self reported long term outcomes following moderate to severe traumatic brain injury,” researchers looked at individual men and women who had sustained a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. The study revealed that significantly more men reported difficulty with setting realistic goals while women reported more headaches, dizziness and loss of confidence. These findings accord with my experience where sometimes men have a very difficult time even accepting injury, which can have a devastating consequence on their relationships following TBI. In this study, the men were found to report functional symptoms like sensitivity to noise and sleep disturbances as significantly more problematic than women. Whereas for women, lack of initiative and needing supervision were significantly more problematic in daily functioning.
The study did note some similarities across both genders as four of the five most reported symptoms were the same for men and women, highlighting similarities in symptoms experienced after TBI. These symptoms include being forgetful, irritable, having poor balance, and difficulty finding words.
In comparison, a study in the Journal of Neurotrauma entitled “Sex Differences in Outcome after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” examined the outcomes following mild TBI. In this study, three months after mild TBI, males had significantly lower chances of having post-concussive symptoms than females. These findings were most significant when the women were of child-bearing age. Researchers thought that this pattern of disability for females during the child-bearing years might be related to disruption of hormone production.
I will say that individual differences and individual responses to brain injury are much more the norm for lawyers like us, who practice in this area. If I were to look at the range of symptoms in my last 100 brain injury cases I could honestly say that I would not be able to discern any specific patterns of difference by age or gender, except to say that real world functionality is markedly impaired. So, while there is a growing body of literature examining gender and other differences in outcome post- TBI, when looked at closely, findings are inconsistent. While this research helps treatment modalities in a population, if you need to find a lawyer, therapist or other professional for someone you know who is suffering from the consequences of a TBI, look for experience in handling TBI cases. Those of us who do this realize the importance of examining all areas to find the specific area of dysfunction affecting the individual in front of us.
To find out more, read:
“Gender differences in self reported long term outcomes following moderate to severe traumatic brain injury” in BMC Neurology (October 2010), by Angela Colantonio and Jocelyn E Harris.
“Sex Differences in Outcome after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” from the Journal of Neurotrauma (March 2010), by Jeffrey Bazarian, Brian Blyth, Sohug Mookerjee, Hua He, and Michael P. McDermott.