Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury in Women Workshop

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury in Women Workshop

December 18, 2017
December 19, 2017


Diana Cummings

Contact Email: 



Natcher Conference Center
NIH Main Campus, Bethesda, MD 20892

Event Description: 

Plan to Attend the “Understanding TBI in Women” Workshop

The purpose of the “Understanding TBI in Women” workshop is to bring together researchers and clinicians to identify knowledge gaps, best practices, and target populations in research that focuses on females and/or sex differences within the field of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Women are under-represented in TBI clinical trials, and the reasons for this disparity in enrollment need to be identified and addressed. In addition, pre-clinical studies have often excluded females or have used ovariectomized rather than intact animals, leading to an incomplete understanding of TBI in females.

Women are under-represented in both clinical and preclinical TBI research, creating gaps in our knowledge about sex differences in the prevalence, causes of injury, pathophysiology, recovery trajectory, and response to treatments. This workshop was conducted to focus on current information regarding sex differences in TBI, address the underlying causes of knowledge gaps, and provide solutions for incorporating sex differences in preclinical and clinical TBI research efforts going forward.

This workshop will focus on the existing knowledge regarding sex differences in TBI research and how these differences can be incorporated in pre-clinical and clinical efforts going forward. Deliverables from the workshop will include a White Paper that can be converted into a journal publication that describes the workshop, outlines the state of the science, and identifies future directions for research.

Email diana.cummings@nih.gov with questions about the meeting.


  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
  • Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM)
  • National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR/NICHD)
  • Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)
  • Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC)

Post Event Summary: 

Topics focused on sex differences in TBI as related to: epidemiology, intimate partner violence, challenges translating from preclinical to clinical research, sports-related TBI, military service members, and the diagnosis, prognosis, and management of TBI. Many themes emerged from the presentations and discussions, including:

  • TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits due to falls have increased dramatically since 2006, particularly among elderly women.
  • Challenges to research in partner-abused women include: the experience of multiple TBIs over time that may or may not be documented, and the potential for co-existing abuse-related medical conditions.
  • Females have been excluded or underrepresented in many preclinical and clinical TBI studies, hampering focused treatment development.
  • Females tend to have higher concussion rates and longer recovery times than males in gender-comparable sports.
  • Some research suggests that more women veterans and servicemembers who sustained TBI exhibit depression, PTSD, and other disorders than men, emphasizing the need for increased inclusion of females in these studies.
  • There are sex differences the brain’s response after TBI; therefore, “one-size-fits-all” approaches may need to be replaced with sex- and age-appropriate treatment and rehabilitation strategies.


The next step is to generate and publish a White Paper that outlines the state of the science in research on sex differences in TBI and identifies current knowledge gaps for research directions that emerged from workshop discussions. Examples of recommendations that came out of the workshop include a need for: (1) multidisciplinary and appropriately designed studies that will correctly address sex differences in TBI research; and (2) the incorporation of sex as a biological variable in preclinical research that accounts for the physiological differences between males and females. Our expectation is that the workshop and subsequent White Paper will accelerate progress in research on women and sex differences in TBI.