New blood test may change football forever...

Submitted by Rescue_Dawn on October 15th, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Army finds simple blood test to identify mild brain trauma

"FREDERICK, Md. — The Army says it has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage or concussion, a hard-to-detect injury that can affect young athletes, infants with "shaken baby syndrome" and combat troops."

"Doctors can miss these injuries because the damage does not show up on imaging scans, and symptoms such as headaches or dizziness are ignored or downplayed by the victims."

This will be great for protecting the health of players, but if this gets adopted by NCAA/NFL be ready to see a lot of people sitting out the following week after games.



October 15th, 2010 at 2:52 PM ^

it makes sense scientifically to test for neuron specific proteins. Tests like this are done routinely to confirm cardiovascular disease. Apoptoptic (programmed cell death) and necrotic cells (dying cells from damage) routinely spill their "guts" into extracellular environment. All one has to do is find a protein fingerprint for a particular cell type that is common across the human population.

I think we live in an exciting time for biomedical research. There are some really cool genetic and proteome diagnostic and therepeutic tests coming out.


October 15th, 2010 at 3:13 PM ^

Thing is though, it's pretty likely that greater than 50% of football players have some form of brain trauma after the game. Thus, do they test everyone and risk entire teams getting benched, or do they only risk the ones who have come out of the game with a head injury or concussion complaint? Where does it stop, if this test is very accurate?


October 15th, 2010 at 3:25 PM ^

I mean, you're going  to suffer some cell death no matter what.

There is probably a "thresh hold" that is given to be a good marker of mild brain trauma, and they'll base it on that. Perhaps when students join a team, they can be given this blood test a few times to establish a baseline of the normal amount of protein in the blood.

Then there'll probably be more than one test, say, a test right away post game and one on thursday or something, and a decision will be based between the two.

That said, how often can you reasonably poke a kid? Once a week? twice?


October 15th, 2010 at 3:40 PM ^

where we draw the line is the important question. I completely agree at a particular level we will find that basically over 50% of football players will test positive for brain trauma. Where we draw the line on player safety and future rule changes is going to be a massive debate in the community. There will always be a health risk. That is the nature of the game.

The most interesting resolution I have read about preventing braing injuries in football is to actually reduce the amount of head protection. Research has shown that as the amount of protection and preventions increases, psychologically the average person takes more risk. They put absolute trust in the prevention and protection strategies it creates a false sense of security. Of course this theory fails to take into account the nature of the human daredevil. Nonetheless, it is an interesting theory for the average person. This article deduced modern football helmets have allowed the football community to accept and push for harder hitting, trusting in the head protection. Therefore, we could go back to the soft helmets found back in the early days of football or do away with helmets and adopt rugby style rules to perhaps reduce the intensity of hitting in modern football. With that said, some of the conclusions from the study are extrapolated to an unwarrented level.

Here is the citation for the article for those of you with access to academic journals:

Hagel, Brent; Meeuwisse, Willem. "Risk Compensation: A “Side Effect” of Sport Injury Prevention?" Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. Vol. 14(4), July 2004, pp 193-196


October 15th, 2010 at 6:28 PM ^

I personally believe that the modern helmet does not protect the athlete very well. Having a hard shell is great for protecting the head from small area impacts, but when do small area impacts happen in football? Also, the weight of helmets contributes to players using it as a weapon. I think that softer, lighter, more deformable shells and softer padding inside the helmet would go a long way to reducing the acceleration experienced by the head.

At least that's my take on the helmet situation

Super J

October 15th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

I got drunk in Frederick MD this summer.  We met some old friend of my girlfriend at a tapas bar.  My girlfriend made a deal with me that she would pay for the dinner if I would pay for parking.  We knew parking would be less than dinner, but her cost was $140.  Parking ended up costing me a whole dollar. 


October 15th, 2010 at 7:55 PM ^

Football is in deeper and deeper trouble over time because science is catching up with the fact of how bad the head trauma is. Specifically the causal connections between certain diseases and head injuries.

Definitely will be equipment changes coming at the very least.

Edward Khil

October 15th, 2010 at 10:39 PM ^

As others said above, it's all a question of where the "limit" is set.  And there will be some accommodation for individual tendencies, i.e., someone with a higher score early on who passes other tests will be allowed to have a higher score throughout his career.

IME, this could be a great tool to sit down those few players who are off the charts.  You already know, the limits are going to be high, especially at the start.  No team is going to be sitting half their players because of this...


October 15th, 2010 at 10:13 PM ^

Personally, I think this is fantastic. We now have the ability to protect our players and keep them out of harm' s way if they are already injured but to a sub-clinical extent (by today's standards). I Also think that other advances will come along that will help tailor workouts.

In swimming, a simple blood test after a race will determine the amount of lactic acid present and a specific cool-down can be prescribed to rid the athlete of the lactic acid and get ready for the next event.

Although this can be used as a diagnostic tool once enough information has been collected, why couldn't we find a way to develop protective headgear that keeps us below the threshold for head injuries? We have some of the best engineers on the planet!


October 15th, 2010 at 10:35 PM ^

All the science on this is pointing to repeat trauma, especially in a short time span, as a major risk factor.  One of the first things I think you will see is mandatory no-play periods following concussions, probably around 6 weeks to start.  The Boston University studies have been among the leaders in this and that is one of their strongest findings.

I also think you will see this in the NFL with the inevitable conclusion that rosters have to be significantly expanded to accommodate the down time.  Expect major battles.