Sports related injuries are common occurrences and in particular, many athletes suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as concussions. Whether they occur due to a blow or jolt to the head, there are millions of sports related TBIs that are diagnosed every single year. With how dangerous head injuries can be, it is important that an athlete does not return to play before they have recovered and in order to do this, a new study is looking to predict more accurate recovery times.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are plenty of long-term factors that are associated with concussions when athletes do not allow the proper amount of recovery before they begin playing again. Among those problems that athletes are at a higher risk for include, dizziness, headaches, and even cognitive deficits. This is especially true if the athlete suffers from future concussions after not being allowed the proper amount of recovery time.
One particular marker that researchers looked at was the tau protein, which can be found after a severe and traumatic brain injury occurs. This is also the same protein that has been linked to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The researchers looked at the tau protein and any fluctuations in its levels following sports related concussions.
The study was able to find that athletes who needed a longer period of time to recover before heading back to play had higher levels of the tau protein. In the first six, 24, and 72 hours following a concussion, the levels of the protein in the blood had increased to higher than average levels. Athletes suffering from concussions, but with lower levels of the tau protein, were able to return to work within the standard 10 day time frame. It did not matter if the athlete was a female or a male, this protein increase could be found across the board.
Due to these findings, it is suggested that within the first six hours if there is an increase in the tau protein, it is likely that a longer duration of time will be needed to recover from a concussion. This in turn offers a new tool to make a better informed decision as to how long athletes suffering from concussions need to be away from play in order to recover and safely return to their sport. Moving forward, knowing that there is a way to measure just how bad a TBI is could in fact lead to the development of a faster and more reliable clinical lab test, which would better be able to diagnose a concussed player and determine how long they will need to recover.
By Dorothea James