Traumatic Brain Injuries: Do They Affect Women Differently?

Updated on January 23, 2021

There is growing research to indicate that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) recovery may be more difficult for women than they are for men. The research has shown that not only do women have more complications, but traditional gender roles may also complicate a woman’s recovery after a TBI. 

About TBI

TBI’s are responsible for the highest percentage of deaths from accidents and there are approximately 373,000 new TBIs each year. Survivors of TBI are often young which means a disability caused by a TBI could lead to significant costs to treat their injury. Some of the costs could be lifelong which means, if the person is young, medical treatments may be necessary for 50, 60 years, or more.

Diagnosing TBI in Women

Although the research is fairly new on how gender affects TBI, one thing that has been learned is that diagnosing TBI in women can be complicated. Although women are more likely than men to report symptoms of a TBI, diagnosis can be difficult. 

Many times, the symptoms of a TBI may be similar to another illness or could be considered part of the female menstrual cycle. Headaches, irritability, and dizziness, for example, can be part of a woman’s monthly cycle, making the symptoms easy to dismiss.

Menstrual Cycles

Another factor that could have an impact on the outcome of a TBI in women is where in her menstrual cycle she is when the injury occurs. Research has shown that if a head injury occurs during the luteal phase, which is just after ovulation, and when levels of progesterone are high, the outcomes are worse than during other phases. 

Women whose injury occurs during this time often result in a lowered quality of life as well. Progesterone is known to have a calming effect and has also been found to improve mood, memory, and cognition. After a TBI during the luteal phase, research has found that progesterone production in women slows, making symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and headache worse.

Violence-Related TBI

There is also some research that indicates the outcome of a violence-related TBI in women may also have different outcomes than a TBI caused by something else, like an automobile accident or a fall. There have been studies of women in the military who suffer TBIs that have indicated differences in symptoms as well as activity between sections of the brain, known as functional connectivity. 

This leads researchers to believe that someone who suffers a TBI during a violent act, such as domestic abuse, recovery in females could take longer and symptoms may present differently than they do in men.

Weaker Neck Muscles

Women have a higher risk of suffering a TBI as they have weaker neck muscles. A study of female soccer players found that women have a higher head-neck angular acceleration than men. This measurement of head impact demonstrated that weaker neck muscles in women may make them predisposed to head injuries.

Longer and More Severe Symptoms

When a woman suffers a head injury, they often have symptoms much longer than men and those symptoms may be more severe. In one study, women had symptoms three to four weeks after the diagnosis of a head injury. In addition, the women in the study had cognitive impairments much longer than men, reporting difficulty with memory and concentration. This may be because women have slower nerve signals than men, which could lead to slower healing (source:

If you or a loved one have suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact your attorney to see how they may be able to help. Most lawyers offer a free consultation by calling or filling out an online form. They can guide you through the process and help you get the compensation you are entitled to under the law.

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