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Concussion Treatment: Will New Blood Test Take Some of the Guesswork Away?

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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments at hospitals in the U.S. treat approximately 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents every year, not counting head injuries arising in those involved in auto accidents, falls, and other traumatic events.

There has always been a certain degree of controversy surrounding how to treat a concussion and exactly when the brain should be considered fully healed. But soon, a blood test may exist to help doctors decide how severe a concussion is and how long recovery might take.

In March 2014, Swedish researchers reported that they have found a way to test the blood for a protein called total tau (T-tau), which is released when the brain is injured, and by observing the level of T-tau drop over time, it also may be possible to predict when concussion symptoms will disappear. In August, the Department of Defense and Abbott, a global healthcare company, announced that they intend to develop a portable blood test that will allow physicians to confirm a concussion at the time of the injury.

The study revealed that the plasma levels of T-tau increased in ice hockey players with sports-related concussion. The highest concentrations of T-tau were measured immediately after the injury, with levels declining during the first 12 hours, and peaking again between 12 and 36 hours. T-tau concentrations measured one hour after the concussion appeared to predict the number of days it took for the concussion symptoms to resolve and the players to return to play safely.

The cause of concussions can be varied, from sports related injuries, car accidents, falls, to the more unique and complex traumatic brain injuries sustained by the thousands of returning soldiers from war zone regions.