Blood Test Could Reveal When Concussed Athletes Can Return to Play

A team of researchers from Sweden believe they have devised a blood test, which could better diagnose sports-related brain injuries, their long-term consequences, and when athletes can safely return to play.

“In ice hockey and other contact sports, repeated concussions are common, where the brain has not finished healing after the first blow,” Henrik Zetterberg ,of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, told Reuters. “This kind of injury is particularly dangerous, but there have not been any methods for monitoring how a concussion in an athlete heals.”

The article went on to summarize the commonly held belief that “while mild concussions don’t generally cause loss of consciousness, they can induce other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, trouble concentrating, memory problems and headaches. Severe concussions can cause a loss of consciousness. Most concussions get better in days or weeks, but some patients can suffer symptoms more than a year after injury.”

Zetterberg, who led the research team, used all the players in the Swedish Hockey League as a sample.

As part of the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal JAMA Neurology, “the players who had a concussion were asked to provide repeated blood samples, initially directly after the concussion and then also during the following days,” according to the article.

“The results were compared with the pre-season samples from two full teams, and the scientists found that having raised levels of a nerve cell protein called tau in the blood was a marker of concussion.

“By measuring tau levels in regular tests, the researchers could say how severe the concussion was just one hour after the injury, and could predict with a high level of certainty which players would have long-term symptoms and needed to rest longer.”

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