Certainly the research is flying in; mostly the investigations are now looking at either ways to detect the injury or objective ways to determine recovery. There are a bunch of other designs and angles out there but the most important are the above. Although it would be great if we had an objective way of determining concussion, it is really not the pressing issue (with solid education and conservative approach to injury – sit them out).
As I have stated over and over, the BIGGEST issue we face with concussions is the mismanagement of concussion from the beginning; therefore the need to identify when it is safe to return is more paramount in my opinion.
The newest research is out from the Cleveland Clinic, it looked at 67 college football players, more specifically it looked at their blood, report from WKYC;
In a study of 67 college football players, researchers found that the more hits to the head a player absorbed, the higher the levels of a particular brain protein that’s known to leak into the bloodstream after a head injury.
Even though none of the football players in the study suffered a concussion during the season, four of them showed signs of an autoimmune response that has been associated with brain disorders.
There we go again, telling and showing people that the hits that don’t elicit a concussive response are also a culprit in the brain injury crisis we are facing. Coaches, particularly in soccer and football, will tell us that we are wrong and that it is either unproven or not a possibility because of how “safe” they practice or the equipment they have.
Back to the research, the group looked for the S100B protein that should only be in the brain;
Typically, S100B is found only in the brain; finding S100B in the blood indicates damage to the blood-brain barrier. While the exact function of S100B is not known, it is used in many countries to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury when other typical signs or symptoms are absent.
Studies in Janigro’s lab revealed that once in the bloodstream, S100B is seen by the immune system as a foreign invader, triggering an autoimmune response that releases auto-antibodies against S100B. Those antibodies then seep back into the brain through the damaged blood-brain barrier, attacking brain tissue and leading to long-term brain damage.
They also did some PET scans to confirm brain damage in an objective manner and it was confirmed.
Concussions can be difficult to diagnose, relying on player symptoms, cognitive tests or CT scans or MRIs that cost thousands of dollars. The S100B blood test offers an objective measure of whether a player has endured head trauma, as the researchers found that elevated S100B levels directly correlate to the number and severity of head hits.
Body contact or simply playing in a football game did not affect S100B levels in the players. A blood test will be much less expensive (about $40) and could be performed anywhere, such as locker rooms or doctors’ offices. More importantly, though, the blood test could offer a yes-or-no determination of whether an athlete requires medical intervention as a result of in-game collisions.
This article can be found in an online journal PLOS ONE, the research was sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).