Better than men – If a woman and a man are severely injured in a car crash–or other major accident (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show), the woman will be more likely to survive. What does this have to do with the NFL?

Severely injured premenopausal women are 14% more likely to survive severe trauma than similarly injured men, a difference researchers believe may be due to the negative impact of male sex hormones on a traumatized immune system.

Both men and women have androgens (male sex hormones, including testosterone) and estrogens, but in different ratios that change over time. The new findings could lead to ways to improve survival in badly injured men, such as giving androgen-blocking drugs to male patients who have been critically injured.

Researcher Adil H. Haider says, “Female sex hormones appear to give women better resiliency to extreme injury, while male sex hormones seem to worsen their survival after severe trauma, and if we can come up with ways to manipulate those hormones in men, for example by temporarily blocking sex hormones, we may be able to improve their survival.”

The impetus for Haider’s study came about several years ago, after Edward E. Cornwell III, M.D., a former Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon and the study’s senior investigator, treated a male patient who arrived at the hospital’s emergency department with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and the testicles, which were almost completely destroyed by the shots. The patient had a poor prognosis, but soon after surgery showed a remarkable recovery. Aware of studies showing that male mice were less likely to survive than female mice after severe trauma–and that castrated mice fared better, surviving at rates similar to female mice–Cornwell suspected this patient’s nearly destroyed testicles and the lack of testosterone production that resulted could have been a reason why he survived his severe wounds.

There are some amusing scenarios suggested by this study, such as giving football players estrogen before a big game to minimize the impact of their injuries. Would estrogen-enhanced tacklers play a less violent game? In contact sports, such as football and rugby, estrogen may eventually become what human growth hormone is in baseball now: an illegal drug.

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