Simple blood test may detect brain damage in athletes even from subconcussive blows to the head
New research from The Cleveland Clinic and the University of Rochester suggests that even sub concussive blows to the brain may cause long term brain injury and can be detected by a simple blood test.
The researchers found that cumulative trauma to the head cause a brain protein to leak into the blood stream following a head injury. The study conducted among college found that even though none of the players suffered a concussion during the season, four of them showed signs of an autoimmune response that has been associated with brain disorders.
The study was published March 6, 2013, in the online journal PLOS ONE and was sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The protein, known as S100B is found only in the brain; finding S100B in the blood indicates damage to the blood-brain barrier and is widely used as a marker of traumatic brain damage when other typical signs or symptoms are absent. The researchers studying the release of this protein found 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.
It has been suggested that utilizing this blood test may prove to be an effective, quick and cost effective means of detecting traumatic brain injury in athletes.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.