Concussions can be an enigma. Some people get a concussion and the symptoms are gone in a day or two, while others get a concussion and it lasts months. It is estimated that there are close to four million sports related concussions a year, and then you factor in how long people have been studying the brain, it is pretty remarkable how up in the air brain injuries are. But now experts think they have found a marker in your blood can can determine when an athlete is able to return to play, and this marker is something everybody is familiar with; protein.
A recently published study finds that athletes who suffer a concussion who have a high amount of the protein “tau” in their blood 6 hours after suffering the concussion take longer to heal. The person is charge of the study, Jessica Gill, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Nursing Research in Bethesda, Maryland, stated that, “We want a biomarker that says who needs to be out of play to recover.” Athletes,in general, will do whatever it takes to get on to the field sooner, and yes that entails lying about their health. Some athletes only care about win or loss, and they are not really thinking about the long term implications that playing with a brain injury could do to their health. Coaches know that athletes need to be protected from themselves.
The researchers took preseason blood samples from over 600 male and female athletes who take part in various contact sports. Out of those 600, 46 of them suffered a concussion, and then the researchers took another blood sample to test for Tau. The blood tests occurred within 6 hours of the injury, 1 day after, 3 days after, and 7 days after. Out of those 46, 28 of the athletes who were not cleared for activity within 10 days after the concussion had a significant concentrations of Tau in their blood post concussion.
Now, this testing is not ready for commercial use just yet. The problem in testing for Tau is that “It’s like looking for a couple grains of sand in an Olympic size swimming pool,” Jessica gill stated. Once we can find a way to make finding Tau simpler, then it can be used hopefully worldwide, and start to protect athletes from their worst nightmare; themselves.