TODAY   |  May 09, 2012

More girls suffering sports-related concussions

In sports played by both sexes, girls are reporting nearly twice as many concussions. Researchers blame girls’ weaker necks as many young athletes are having to give up the sports they love. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 7:44 with the alarming rise of concussions in young girls who play soccer. nbc's kate snow is here with an eye-opening report.

>> good morning, ann. most of the time when a young girl has a concussion, she recovers. but, with our kids playing harder, faster, younger, doctors are raising an alarm. and for one group of girls , what happened on the field was life changing. as the game gets rougher, tougher, and ever more popular, we found a group of girls outside philadelphia with a remarkable story to tell. how many of you have had a concussion? how many of you have had more than one concussion. how many of you have played through a concussion, you had a concussion, you just kept going? one group of friends, more than a dozen concussions.

>> people who think of concussions as only being present mostly in guys, and mostly in the sport of football, are just plain wrong. soccer is right at the top of the list for the girls .

>> reporter: dr. bob cantu, a leading researcher, says girls are reporting nearly twice as many concussions as boys, in the sports they both play.

>> girls , as a group, have far weaker necks. the same force delivered to a girl's head spins the head much more, because of the weak neck, than it does to the guy.

>> reporter: of the six girls we met, three have had such bad brain injury they had to give up the sport they loved.

>> i lost my identity. i lost my love for a game. i lost my social life . i don't think i'll ever get that back.

>> reporter: jenna and kimmy haven't been able to consistently make it through a full day of school for almost two years, because their symptoms are so bad. headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vision problems. as a result they have problems concentrating, and remembering things.

>> okay. if at any point in time you feel dizzy or discomfort let me know .

>> reporter: their days used to be filled with exercise and activity. now it's therapy and doctor's visits.

>> she hit her head on the ground, and she didn't move.

>> reporter: allison's first major concussion was more than three years ago.

>> i told my friend, oh, my gosh, she's not moving. she's not moving.

>> reporter: after she recovered from that hit, she played the next season, and suffered yet another concussion before quitting the game. now, to reduce her nearly constant headaches, they eat dinner by candlelight. her bedroom is bathed in blue.

>> it's like a break. it's visible. but it's almost i need a sign on my back saying, my head is broken. i mean, you can say you understand. but it's like, you don't. i'm sorry. you don't.

>> their soccer careers are over. but for other girls cleared to play after concussions, it can be a real debate for families when do the risks outweigh the fun of the game.

>> very important question. kate snow , thanks for bringing us this report. by the way want to mention that you can see more of kate's report tonight on "rock center with brian williams " at 9:00, 8:00 central time here on nbc.