New Research Identifies Reliable Biomarker of Permanent Brain Damage following Concussion
Findings released on November 25, 2014 in the Journal of Neurotrauma indicate that the presence of a blood protein known as SNTF shortly after a sports-related concussion can predict the severity of post-concussion symptoms in professional athletes.
The authors of the study – Robert Simon, PhD, and Douglas H. Smith, MD, professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania – noted upon release of this study of SNTF in concussion patients that
“these observations lend further support to the growing awareness that concussion is not trivial, since it can induce permanent brain damage in some individuals.”
The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The subjects of the study were 288 players in the top Swedish professional ice hockey league. Each of the 28 players who suffered concussions during the first half of the 2012-2013 season received blood tests and were evaluated daily for symptom resolution. In players who had persistent post-concussion symptoms the researchers found elevated blood SNTF levels compared to players who were not concussed and players whose symptoms resolved within a few days. These elevated SNTF concentrations were evident from one hour up to 144 hours following the concussion. It is understood that SNTF is produced under conditions where nerve cells are traumatized and begin to die.
The authors of the study note that in other recent studies, elevated SNTF levels were found in cases where white matter abnormalities were detected using diffusion tensor imaging. Taken together, these studies support the hypothesis that SNTF is a biomarker for the diffuse axonal injury underlying brain functional impairment after a mild traumatic brain injury.
This study also suggests that a blood test may provide valuable neurobiological information when making a decision about whether to return an athlete to play.