Concussions are becoming more popular in sports. Studies have found that the most concussions are happening in the world of soccer. That’s right, soccer, not football. A big success in helping detect a concussion is a simple blood test. This process is closer to becoming a reality and progress has been made in the testing that can help detect a concussion even after seven days of receiving the injury.
JAMA Neurology recently published a report that says they may be closer than ever to using the blood test to test for a concussion. The study involved 600 patients who were admitted to a trauma center from March 2010 to March 2014. All patients had sustained some sort of head injury that resulted in a loss of consciousness, amnesia or disorientation.
Upon admittance, the blood was drawn starting four hours after being admitted and at regular intervals throughout the days following to look at how a level of a biomarker knows as glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) changed over time. This protein that is produced to help maintain astrocyte mechanical strength. GFAP is unique to the brain and central nervous system and once a severe head injury occurs, the protein is leaked into the bloodstream.
Companies are researching the latest safety features for all sports. Football helmets are being redesigned and reinforced to sustain hits the players take. Soccer has introduced the Halo protective headband. Although the Halo cannot prevent all concussions, players are 2.65 times more likely to receive a concussion without one.
Safer Soccer was launched in 2014 by the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE) and was led by the U.S. Women’s Soccer greats Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone and Joy Fawcett.
In November 2015, the Safer Soccer campaign saw a major victory as U.S. Soccer announced a series of safety initiatives aimed at addressing concussions in youth soccer, including rules that will prohibit players 10 years and younger from heading the ball, and are seeking further advancement in the ruling to include ages 11-13 year-old players.
In fact in the movie “Concussion”, the story introduces us to Dr. Bennet Omalu who has studied traumatic brain injuries. Omalu explained that the reason the prognosis is so poor is that so many injuries went undetected.
As any coach, trainer or even a parent can tell you, sometimes detecting a concussion on the sidelines can be difficult. Symptoms are not always easy to spot and even conducting a simple test on the sidelines can prove at times false. Athletes could fake the test and provide false information just so they can continue to play. A trip to the ER can be met with a questioned response as to if there is an injury or not. Sometimes, symptoms take a few days to appear, so that initial visit might have not helped. But the doctors are now requiring students to stay home from school. Do not look at a textbook for a while. Do not play video games. They are requiring the brain to rest and given time to heal.
While the findings are a substantial step in developing a test that could be used in broad settings, scientists are still a few years away from making this a reality. But it shows that the treatment is moving in the right direction. Dr. Linda Papa who is an Orlando Health emergency medicine specialist stated “There are blood tests to diagnose problems with other organs, including the heart, kidneys and liver, and now we are close to having something for the brain”.