Study: blood test can detect concussions in kids

ORLANDO, FL. — If you’re a parent of a child who plays sports, you’ll want to hear this next story. A new study is out showing that researchers have been able to detect concussions in children using a simple blood test. As ABC 10’s Sarah Mac shows us, this test could help take the guess work out of diagnosing concussions and keep kids safer in the future.

It’s estimated that a quarter of a million kids a year end up in the hospital with concussions from playing sports – and Kate Ratliff was one of them.

Kate was diving for a ball recently when she collided with another player – and at first, didn’t seem to be seriously hurt.

Kate’s mother Misty Ratliff says, “We actually didn’t get her checked out right away because she didn’t have the symptoms right at the beginning, but a couple of hours later she started vomiting and had a headache.”

That isn’t uncommon. Symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and delayed. And the longer it’s left untreated, the worse the damage can be.

Linda Papa, MD, MSC of Orlando Health says, “There really is a need to try to detect these injuries early. And with the tools we have now, they’re really not sensitive enough to detect all of these injuries.”

So Dr. Linda Papa and her team of researchers at Orlando Health have developed a way to detect even mild concussions using a simple blood test.

In a recent study, she took blood from 152 children who had brain injuries – then gave each a CT scan. As expected, the scans detected even small lesions on the brain.

But so did the blood tests.

Biomarkers in the blood identified brain injuries with 94% accuracy, and even told doctors how severe the injuries were.

“We’re looking at different types of lesions we find on CT scan,” Dr. Papa added, “those that are more severe than less severe, and the biomarker actually is elevated in the more severe injuries.”

The test could lead to a device like those used in diabetes – one that would analyze a drop of blood to diagnose a concussion on the spot.

Papa says, “The idea is to try to get a point–of–care test that could be used on the field, to help the coaches, and the trainers and the athletic directors, make a decision about whether the child should go back to play.”

Which would offer players more protection, and parents more peace of mind.

Information courtesy of Orlando Health.