Blood Test to Flag Concussions? Army Says Yes

Simple test may diagnose mild to moderate brain injury.

ByABC News
October 14, 2010, 10:56 PM

Oct. 15, 2010 — -- Preliminary reports on as-yet unpublished Army research have offered a tantalizing look at what may be in the future for the diagnosis of mild to moderate brain injury.

Army researchers say they may have found a new procedure that may make it possible someday to diagnose mild concussions quickly and easily.

Concussions -- blows to the head that damage the brain -- are a common sports injury, but many people suffer them elsewhere: in car crashes, falls and in combat.

Unlike those who suffer more severe concussions, mild brain injury victims may have no immediate outward symptoms of the damage their brains have sustained -- even though this damage could put them at greater risk of bigger problems later.

For this reason, all too often, mild concussions go undetected, exposing the person to much more serious brain damage if they suffer a second concussion before the first one is fully healed.

Most concussions happen to children younger than 4 and to teenagers.

Niki Popyer suffered seven concussions before the age of 14, playing basketball. Now she suffers from dizziness, memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

"I can't go to the movies. I can't ride a train or do anything that could potentially get hit," she said.

And last year, actress Natasha Richardson died of a brain hemorrhage after what at first seemed to be a minor fall on a Canadian ski slope.

Doctors say the idea that they could one day have a test that could quickly warn of the potential for brain damage in the absence of neurological signs is exciting. Brain injury experts, however, said there's still a lot of work to be done to validate and develop a reliable test that will be easy for those in the field -- such as football coaches and ski resort managers -- to use.