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New Genetic Study Explains Why Female Soccer Has the Greatest Risk of Concussion


How to prevent concussions

When you think about which sports have the highest risk of concussion, football is probably the first one that comes to mind. This might be followed by other intense sports such as BMX racing, lacrosse, and hockey.

If these sports are your top guesses, you’re wrong. It might come as a surprise to you that the sport with the greatest risk of concussion is actually female soccer.

A new genetic study conducted by the DNA Company offers an explanation. It shows that certain people are more likely than others to get concussions and struggle to recover from them.

Why does this matter? You might be wondering which sports are safest for your kids to play...or you might be considering whether you or your partner should continue playing professional sports. Perhaps you’ve had a concussion in the past and you never want to experience it again.

Taking a genetic test to find out whether you have the gene that makes you more susceptible to concussions will help you take steps to protect yourself while continuing to play the sports you love.

The gene behind concussions

I know you’re probably not a genetics expert, but I’m sure you’ll find this fascinating. There is one gene that determines how much brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) your body produces. Thankfully, this gene has a name that’s pretty easy to remember compared to other genes (CYP19A1, for example). It’s called the BDNF gene.

Your BDNF gene makes it so that your body produces either high or low amounts of BDNF. You can think of BDNF as an armored plate on your brain that gives you protection. BDNF influences your brain’s ability to form new neuron connections.

Because low BDNF is associated with a higher risk of concussion, you’re more susceptible to concussions if you have the BDNF gene variation that leads to low BDNF. You’ll also probably have a harder time recovering from concussions.

At the DNA Company, we’ve worked with professional athletes in a variety of different sports. What we’ve found is that the athletes who miss multiple games and take longer to recover from concussions are the ones who have low BDNF. Those who have the optimized version of the BDNF gene recover much more quickly.

Here’s the good news: as soon as you find out you have low BDNF, you can take steps to fix it and reduce your risk of concussion. It’s important to take preventative measures as early as possible.

The risks of women’s soccer

Going back to the dangers of various sports, let’s take a look at women’s soccer. What makes it have the highest risk of concussion?

Soccer is an intense contact sport, so it’s not surprising that many people get concussions while playing. The main causes of concussion are being hit in the head by the ball and colliding with another player.

But why does female soccer result in more concussions than male soccer?

According to data collected by the DNA company, 4.68% of women have the worst version of the BDNF gene, compared to only 3.44% of men. That makes women much more likely to be at risk of concussion.

That’s not to say that only 8% of people have low BDNF, however. It’s possible to have the average version of the BDNF gene and still have low enough BDNF to cause problems. In fact, 35% of the population have low or medium BDNF levels.

What else results from low BDNF?

Being more likely to sustain concussions and recover slowly is only one of the consequences of low BDNF. If you have the low BDNF gene, you will likely experience some of the following problems as well.

Do you tend to get caught up in thinking the same thoughts over and over again? Because BDNF has a significant impact on your neural plasticity, having an insufficient amount of it usually results in difficulty forming new neural connections. Perhaps you struggle with repetitive thinking patterns because of this rigidity.

In extreme circumstances, people with low BDNF can have neurotic tendencies that cause them to see normal events in an irrational way. These people can be especially sensitive to environmental stress. If this sounds like you, reach out to a therapist for help as soon as possible.

Another issue that’s associated with low BDNF is being unable to sleep through the night. This is due to the fact that BDNF actually sets your circadian rhythm. If you have low BDNF, you’re more likely to have trouble falling asleep due to blue light exposure before bed. Follow these tips to help you improve deep sleep.

How to protect yourself from concussions

The earlier you find out whether you have the worst version of the BDNF gene, the sooner you can start taking steps to prevent concussions. The most important thing you can do is raise your BDNF levels to improve the protective shield surrounding your brain.

Here are some ways to increase your BDNF:

  • Start intermittent fasting
  • Maintain a healthy, active lifestyle
  • Eat plenty of foods with omega-3s such as fish, hemp seeds, nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and seaweed
  • Use a sauna often
  • Take a hot shower every morning
  • Avoid foods with high calories
  • Increase magnesium and B vitamins by eating lentils, peas, beans, oats, barley, avocados, bananas, salmon, and cashews
  • Take supplements such as green coffee fruit extract and magnesium threonate

Aside from making the effort to raise your BDNF, make sure you do these things to protect yourself from concussions:

  • Always wear a helmet that fits when playing contact sports or doing high-intensity activities such as biking, skiing, skating, and horseback riding
  • Strengthen your neck muscles through certain exercises
  • Wear your seatbelt at all times

Are you wondering whether you’re genetically predisposed towards concussions? The best way to find out is by decoding your genes through our 360 DNA Report. You’ll discover whether you have low BDNF as well as 37 other custom reports surrounding sleep, diet, nutrition, hormones, fitness, cardiovascular health, immunity, and behavior.

Each custom report includes your genetic tendencies as well as practical steps you can take to optimize your health and wellness. You are a unique individual, and you deserve health strategies that reflect your unique genome. Get started today.
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