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Study uses protein to determine seriousness of a concussion

Last week we posted about how the decline in youth football enrollment may be attributed to an increased fear over brain injuries. Basically, with more news stories related to claims of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy being tied to taking hits to the head in football, many parents may be hesitant to allow their children to sign up for a sport with such perceived dangers.

In talking about brain injuries, part of the problem is that when someone suffers from a mild traumatic brain injury, like a concussion, it is not easy to diagnose. Rather, a lot of figuring out if a concussion actually occurred is done by relying on witnesses and whether or not certain symptoms were present, such as losing consciousness, confusion or dizziness. A scan can also be done to see if there is any swelling or bleeding of the brain.

The overall issue with this approach is that there is not just one way to positively say whether the brain was hurt badly enough to cause ongoing issues. This means someone who has been seriously injured, may not be properly treated.

However, a new study offers hope to change this with more concrete concussion diagnoses in the future.

The study focused on a protein that is released when neurons degenerate. This protein is a calpain-cleaved alphaII-spectrin proteolytic fragment, commonly referred to as just SNTF.

With this study, researchers went about seeing if lower levels of the protein -- from those patients who suffered concussions -- could be used to distinguish between those who will quickly recover and those who suffered from serious damage that will need time, such as months, to heal.

According to the study, low levels of SNTF could make this distinction.

Of course though, no Tennessee resident should read this to mean there is a solution. Rather, this method would still need to be tested in larger populations to see if the findings continue to hold true.


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