A simple blood test may be all it takes to diagnose a concussion, according to new research out of Sweden. The study identified total tau protein (T-tau) as the unique biomarker able to confirm concussion diagnosis and predict the severity and duration of symptoms.
T-tau is typically found only in cerebral spinal fluid. But a blow to the head may cause it to get into the blood if the blood-brain barrier is damaged.
T-tau is one of the biomarkers also found to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia in otherwise healthy individuals.
The study followed 288 of Sweden’s pro hockey players in the 2012-2013 season. Blood samples of 28 concussed players were taken an hour after injury then repeated 12, 36, 48, and 144 hours later. T-tau levels were 5-10 times higher than pre-season levels of healthy players. Not only that, but T-tau measurements in blood samples collected an hour after injury helped researchers gauge the severity and duration of concussion symptoms.
“T-tau is a promising biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of concussion in athletes,” said Dr. Pashtun Shahim, lead researcher on the project. “…If you suspect concussion, you could measure blood levels of T-tau, and then repeat the test every few days to gauge whether it is safe to go back to play.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian of the University of Rochester says doctors should prepare for a new era in head injury management. “This is going to be how we tell if someone has had a concussion, just like we use proteins to tell us if someone has had a heart attack or a blood clot in the lung,” said Bazarian.
“Keep your eye out for this,” added Bazarian. “This is going to be the wave of the future.”
See the Tim Horton’s ad about Sydney Crosby urging the NHL to “do something before it’s too late.”