New blood test evaluates concussions, brain injuries

CBS 11 Texas

March 8, 2023

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Sally Fryer Dietz specializes in helping people recover from concussions. 

“Any kind of a blow to the central nervous system, meaning your head or your tailbone, can cause a concussion,” she said. 

When it comes to young people, the Texas Education Agency says traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has become known as the “silent epidemic.”

6,000 Texas children are hospitalized with a TBI a year. 1,300 of those cases result in long-term disability. 

“Sports injuries are definitely up there,” Dietz said. “Texas has the highest number of student athletes playing sports, so concussions, we have greater incidents of them just because of the number of kids that are actually out there playing.” 

Dietz said on the field there should always be someone who is designated to screen for a concussion.

If there are red flags, the athlete should be pulled from play. They’ll need to see a medical doctor who would officially diagnose a concussion.

CBS News Texas asked if there are a lot of cases where a concussion goes undetected.

“Probably more often than not, they go undetected,” Dietz said. 

Abbott Laboratories said it’s cases like this where its new commercially available lab-based blood test can be helpful. 

It measures two indicators in the blood that, in elevated concentrations, are tightly correlated to brain injury.

The test takes about 18 minutes and would help doctors evaluate patients with a mild TBI by ruling out the need for a CT scan, which can be pricey. 

“The more tools that you have available for you to look at, truly putting together a firm diagnosis, I think that’s always helpful,” Dietz said. “Do you absolutely need to have a blood test? I don’t think so.”

Dietz said there are other ways to tell if someone has had a concussion based on a collection of symptoms they’ll show. 

“If you’re not feeling quite right to any degree, having a specialist in concussions who looks at the big picture of your performing and thinking and doing things can be really helpful for recovery,” Dietz said. 

She said you don’t want to put yourself at risk for future injuries. 

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