New research out of Sweden shows a potential avenue for diagnosing concussions on the sideline. The study, which focused on the blood protein S100B, was conducted on 288 Swedish professional hockey players during the 2012-2013 season. According to the study's authors, "all players underwent clinical pre-season baseline testing regarding concussion assessment measures." They were also tested for baseline levels of the protein total-tau (t-tau) and S-100 calcium-binding protein B.
After a confirmed concussion, the hockey players registered median levels of t-tau more than twice as high as their pre-season levels. Their levels of S-100 calcium-binding protein B were also higher when compared to pre-season numbers.
"Total tau is a marker of cortical axonal injury," said Pasthun Shahim, MD, one of the researchers. "The levels of total [tau] increased in concussed hockey players compared to the pre-season values, and levels normalized when the players were free of symptoms and returned to play."
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Clinic/University of Rochester is in the process of developing a point-of-care test that would be available to coaches and athletes on the sideline. However, like the S100B blood stick test, it apparently won't be available any time soon. The same report mentioned that "the t-tau test is proprietary and not available to other researchers." Still, the latest study could represent a major step toward fast, easy and accurate concussion diagnosis.