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Norwalk Woman Spins TV Gaffe Into Women's Concussion Website

Norwalk's Katherine Snedaker, shown with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, has launched a website dedicated to providing information on concussions in women and girls.
Norwalk's Katherine Snedaker, shown with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, has launched a website dedicated to providing information on concussions in women and girls. Photo Credit: Contributed

NORWALK, Conn. – A Super Bowl-day blunder by one of the nation’s top sportscasters propelled Norwalk’s Katherine Snedaker to create a website on concussions in women and girls. In just a few weeks, the impact has been profound.

“This is the first website to focus on female concussions,’’ said Snedaker, who launched just a few days after the Super Bowl. “We’ve already got about 150 Twitter followers and big traffic on the site. Concussions hadn’t been sliced into a women-specific site before. There are data points about it, but they are subparagraphs in other studies.”

CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz provided the impetus for her to launch the site, Snedaker says. On " Face The Nation " on Super Bowl day, Nantz said: “Research shows that at the college level, a women’s soccer player is two-and-half times more likely to suffer a concussion than a college football player. I don’t hear anyone saying right now, ‘Should we pull our daughter in these soccer programs?’”

People in the concussion world “flipped out” over Nantz’s comment, Snedaker said. “He took two different statistics and put them together,’’ she said. “It’s comparing apples and oranges. His heart was in the right place, but he messed up the data. But he did more for girls with that one statement than anything that’s even been done before. Sometimes a social gaffe illuminates the topic a little bit more.”

Snedaker’s point is that it’s illogical to compare male football players with female soccer players. And concussions do not always occur in sports: 80 percent of concussions occur outside of athletics, she said.

“We do know some basic facts about females and concussions,’’ Snedaker said. “They concuss at a higher rate, and they heal slower. They also report more, and they’re more honest. Generally, they have more symptoms per concussion than boys. There just aren’t any good statistics out there. I don’t believe anything before 2008, because that’s when the definition crystallized on what exactly a concussion is. Females and concussions hasn’t been a central focus of any one study.”

She launched Sports to help recreation teams, town leagues and private schools build concussion awareness into their programs. Snedaker is also the founder of Team Concussion, a web-based support group for teens who have suffered concussions. She has suffered double-digit concussions as well, and her three boys have also suffered concussions.

She will work on a committee in Washington on Feb. 25 created by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council to review evidence of sports-related concussions in youth, including risk factors, protective equipment and screening, diagnosis and management.

“Male football players are the focus of most media,’’ said Snedaker, who learned in January that she has breast cancer. “But there are many women out there suffering. Women would rather tell you their dress size than tell you how many concussions they’ve had. The depth of what we know is out there is shallow or buried. Maybe a lot has been done, and we don’t know about it. We have to find out.”

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