Concussion recovery time could be predicted using biomarkers in the blood

Study published in Neurology looking at sport-related concussion finds biomarkers in the blood may have the potential to identify which athletes will need longer recovery time.

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An article, recently published in Neurology, looking at sport-related concussion has discovered biomarkers in the blood that may have the potential to identify which athletes will need longer recovery time.

The study assessed a total of 41 high school and college football players who experienced concussion during the season were matched with 43 control players of the same level age and position who did not have a concussion during that same season. 

All the participants had blood tests at the beginning of the season. Once the players with concussion had their accident, they then had blood tests within 6 hours of the injury, 24–48 hours later and 15–45 days later. The players without concussion were tested by researchers at similar times for comparison. 

The blood tests looked at the levels of seven inflammation biomarkers that have been related to more severe brain injury. Out of the seven the biomarkers, the team noticed that IL-6 and IL-1RA were elevated for those with concussion 6 hours post-injury when compared with the players without concussion.

At the beginning of the season the IL-6 levels for the concussed and control athletes were 0.44 and 0.4 pg/mL respectively. Then, 6 hours post-injury, the IL-6 levels of the concussed players elevated to 1.01 pg/mL compared with 0.39 pg/mL in players without concussion. Athletes with concussion had symptoms for an average of 8.9 days, and the researchers discovered that those with higher levels of IL-6 at 6 hours after injury were more likely to take longer to recover. 

“Eventually, these results may help us better understand the relationship between injury and inflammation and potentially lead to new treatments,” commented author Timothy B. Meier (Medical College of Wisconsin; WI, USA).

However, the limitations of this study include that the sample of athletes is small and only includes males in high school or college, therefore the results may not be representative of the wider population. 

“With so many people sustaining concussions and a sizeable number of them having prolonged symptoms and recovery, any tools we can develop to help determine who would be at greater risk of problems would be very beneficial, so these results are a crucial first step,” concluded Meier.

Sources: Nitta M, Savitz J, Nelson L. et al. Acute elevation of serum inflammatory markers predicts symptom recovery after concussion. Neurology. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000007864. (2019) (Epub ahead of print); 

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