Total Impact

Concussion blood test

Strengthen knowledge translation to achieve health benefits for individuals and populations.

While a growing body of research continues to develop around the study of concussions, the brain injury often acquired through sport, is now starting to be understood as more than ‘just a concussion’. Reflecting on the known and often severe consequences of concussions, a new discussion has entered the sports arena: how can we better assess and prevent concussions?

Driving innovation in the area of concussion research, and working to strengthen knowledge translation to achieve health benefits for individuals and populations, are scientists from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Through the discovery of a new testing method, Drs. Douglas Fraser and Mark Daley have developed a cost-efficient blood test able to detect the presence of clinically significant concussions.

Drs. Fraser and Daley were prompted to study concussion assessment because of the high occurrence of concussions in contact sports and the exhibited level of trauma in those who have incurred multiple concussions during their lifetime.

Using blood drawn from individuals who may have suffered a concussion as the result of a sudden blow to the head, the pair measured a series of metabolites in the blood that may indicate the occurrence of a concussion. This blood profiling technique is commonly known as metabolomics.

“We looked at a host of patterns and it appears those who suffered a concussion have a very different pattern than those who have not had a concussion,” said Dr. Fraser.

Previously, attempts to identify the presence of concussions in affected individuals have looked unsuccessfully for a single, highly accurate protein biomarker that can distinguish concussed from nonconcussed patients.

Drs. Fraser and Daley’s blood testing method, however, boasts an impressive accuracy rate of more than 90 per cent.

“There is no one metabolite that we can put a finger on, but when we looked at all of them, those profiles are different enough that we could easily distinguish concussed patients from non-concussed,” said Dr. Daley. “In fact, with fine tuning, we can now look at sets of as few as 20-40 specific metabolites and maintain the diagnostic accuracy level of the test more than 90 per cent.”

To maintain its accuracy rate in identifying concussions, the blood being tested must be drawn from the affected individual within 72 hours of experienced head trauma.

Aiming to move their research findings into application, Drs. Fraser and Daley believe their blood test will one day take the place of current diagnosis practices, which rely on patient symptoms assessment and clinician judgement.

“With further research, we anticipate that our blood test will also aid clinicians in predicting concussion outcome, as well as rehabilitation after concussion,” said Dr. Fraser.

"Concussion blood test" written by Communications Staff (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry)