A Swedish team of researchers has developed a blood test to help determine who might have suffered a concussion.  The new test measures the amount of two specific proteins in the blood; a nerve cell protein called tau, and a protein called “S-100 calcium-binding protein B”, found in neuroglial supporting cells in the brain called astrocytes.

In developing and validating the test, the researchers took blood samples from 47 Swedish professional hockey players before the hockey season began, to establish baseline values of the two proteins.  During the 2012-2013 Swedish hockey season 35 of the 288 hockey players who had agreed ahead of time to participate in the study suffered concussions.   Blood samples were taken from the injured players at 1, 12, 36, and 144 hours after concussive injury.  In these 35 players, the blood levels of both proteins rose within the first hour after the injury to approximately twice the baseline values.  Both markers fell toward baseline in subsequent samples.

Together, the data suggest that elevated levels of these two markers an hour after a possible injury are a sign that a concussive injury has indeed occurred.

The new test could become part of the normal procedure for diagnosing head injuries in sports.   If it could be packaged in a simple-to-use kit form, it may also help sports physicians and coaches decide whether a player should be allowed to return to play in the late stages of a game, or instead, sent for further medical diagnosis and treatment.

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