Personal Injury

Longer recovery from head injuries for adolescent girls: study

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

A recent Canadian study that suggests adolescent girls are slower to recover from concussions than boys the same age is important for all concerned, says Oakville personal injury lawyer Weston Pollard.

“I think it’s essential for treatment providers to know all possible reasons why recovery may be taking longer than expected since we rely upon them to provide the care people need,” says Pollard, partner with Edwards Pollard LLP.

“It is also helpful for young females with concussions to understand that their treatment may take up to three times longer than males,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Investigators at the CHEO Research Institute and the University of Ottawa examined data from 2,716 children and adolescents who had been diagnosed with concussions by doctors at nine pediatric hospitals across Canada, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

They found that more than half of the adolescent girls (ages 13-18) were still experiencing post-concussion symptoms 12 weeks after their initial injury, while more than half of the teenage boys were free of symptoms after four weeks, the article states.

“It’s important for treatment providers to be aware of this difference,” Pollard says.

“It’s also very relevant for personal injury lawyers so that we can secure funding from the insurer for future treatments, over whatever course of time that may be,” he says.

Pollard says this study gives counsel “more awareness when we're initially meeting with people and documenting their general symptoms and concerns.”

He says personal injury lawyers are often consulted within days of a person’s slip and fall or automobile accident.

“In those cases, we usually say, ‘Let's take a wait-and-see approach,’” Pollard says.

“We tell them to keep going to therapy and consult with their doctor, then come back in a few months, and we'll see how you're doing,” he says.

Information in the article backs up that approach, noting that many symptoms arising from concussions are resolved within the first seven days.

“At least half of all patients, regardless of their ages or sex, were fully recovered after four weeks with one exception: adolescent girls,” the article states. “They tended to have a protracted recovery and most were not free of symptoms three months after their injury.”

Pollard says he doesn’t know if that translates into three times more therapy, “but the study does suggest that they'll need longer treatment than their male counterparts.”

With concussions, he says each case is unique, “so we always rely on the expertise of doctors and concussion specialists to call the shots when it comes to a client’s care.”

Pollard says he is looking forward to seeing more studies in this area.

“More research needs to be done so that we can better understand the differences between concussions in males and females,” he says.

In recent decades, Pollard says the public has started to realize how serious head injuries are, pointing to how minor sports leagues have adopted concussion protocols in the event of injury.

“We are talking about someone's brain, and their symptoms and recovery will always be unique and specific to them when it comes to a concussion,” he says.

For personal injury lawyers, Pollard says this study will help inform how claims for head injuries are handled.

“If we are looking to settle a claim involving an adolescent female, we now know that their recovery may be prolonged and they may need funding over a longer period of time,” he says.

Pollard says most of the head injuries his firm sees are a result of either car accidents or sports injuries. With auto claims, he says insurers sometimes say that a few treatments are all they want to cover.

“I think this study shows that a concussion can’t be treated that quickly, which is good news for those who need more time to heal,” Pollard says.

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