A concussion is difficult to diagnose and track. Trauma is not always detected on standard studies – ultrasound, computed tomography, x-rays. Concussion is usually diagnosed by symptoms or by baseline testing, if available.
Rebecca Mannix, MD, MPH at the Boston Pediatric Emergency Department, points out that doctors miss 40 to 60 percent of concussions because medical attention is focused on more visible injuries.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital say protein “biomarkers” in urine can be used to diagnose concussions and monitor recovery.
Doctors have long known that markers of many diseases are found in the urine. However, urinalysis can be performed frequently, it is simple and inexpensive compared to other types of studies. The experts decided to find out how biomarkers change before and after a concussion.
A similar study was easiest to conduct on athletes – they often take tests and at the same time they regularly experience various injuries, including concussion.
Scientists collected and froze urine samples from athletes. Concussion survivors were retested within seven days, and one, three, six, and twelve months after the injury.
In the end, the team of experts collected enough samples to compare the urine profiles of 95 athletes: 48 with concussion and 47 controls. Of the 71 proteins that differed significantly between the two groups, two stood out as the most characteristic and predictive of concussion: IGF-1 and IGFBP5.
After a concussion, the level of these proteins was significantly lower. Scientists suggest that these proteins are involved in recovery after brain injury, so the body stores them, and does not excrete them.
The scientists plan to back up their evidence-based study with clinical trials in various populations, such as adolescents and non-athletes. Such developments will allow experts to develop a rapid test that could be used in emergency medical care.