Blood Test May Allow Quick Diagnosis of Concussions

Our Chicago brain injury lawyers have reported often on these pages about the rise in sports related head injuries and the need to be vigilant about their presence. An individual brain injury-like a concussion-can have only minimal effect on a player so long as it is properly caught and treatment is provided. The real danger is in not catching the concussion at all, opening the door to aggravating the injury. The consequences are high in those situations as anything from brain damage to death can ultimately result.

The challenge in correctly identifying a traumatic brain injury has been leading many researchers to investigate ways to easily, accurately, and timely identify if head trauma has occurred. The federal government has also been involved in the situation, as many service members experience these injuries. According to the Army Times progress may have been made on this front. Pentagon officials are now considering a range of new diagnostic tool to help detect whether or not a concussion has occurred. While the new tools are promising, officials are quick to point out that none of them constitute of “magic bullet” to quickly and perfectly determine the potential harm of a head injury. Instead, officials believe that using a combination of tests in conjunction might ultimately prove to be the most useful way to help in these situations.

The combination of tests will likely be used to determine if and when a concussion victim is capable of returning back to duty. One of the most novels tools involved is a hand-held device that can test for protein fragments that have been released into the bloodstream. The device is still in the testing phase, but in smaller samples it has proven quite effective at identifying whether or not a concussion had occurred. The results of a much larger examination of the device’s effectiveness are expected early next year. If the device performs well it is likely that it will be used in more widespread ways in the future.

Beyond that, military doctors are also combining use of a wide range of other techniques. One is known as the EYE-trac, and it is a computer device that tracks visual movements and cuing in a potential victims. The tracking results can be used to test inattention and memory loss, which are common following concussion. Lab tests of saliva or skin are also used to identify biological markers of brain injury. In addition, more sophisticated MRI techniques are helping to paint a clear picture of the working of an individual’s brain. Of course advanced imaging tests and some other lab results are much more expensive and time consuming, and so the search for a more direct and reliable identifier of traumatic brain injury remains underway.

It is hoped that the increased surge in research attention around the topic will yield good results. As one involved researcher explained, “there’s been a paradigm shift in research, with extreme pressure to develop safe and effective treatments, and to get the ball rolling as fast as we can.” In particular, it is hoped that the “Holy Grail” of an effective concussion identifier will be found, because it is much harder to detect mild brain injuries compared to severe ones.

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