HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care Offers Clarification about New Blood Test to Detect Concussions

Robert G. Graw, Jr., M.D., founder and medical director of HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care, one of the largest concussion clinics in the country, is offering his response to this week’s announcement about U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a blood test to help detect concussions (traumatic brain injury) in adults. The Brain Trauma Indicator test measures two proteins that are released when the brain is injured and is being promoted as an alternative to receiving a high radiation CT scan, in the event the blood test returns a negative finding.

“We are thrilled about the advancements being made to identify concussions, although the public should be aware that this test measures only two of the many biomarkers studied to identify a concussive blow to the brain,” said Dr. Graw. “At HeadFirst, we’re referring to it as a preliminary, partial indicator given that a concussion is not typically diagnosed using computed tomography (CT) scans, but a range of other indicators. Only when there is catastrophic bleeding on the brain are CT scans necessary, and since many concussions aren’t associated with this type of bleeding the test would not be helpful in those instances.”

As a program of Maryland-based urgent care Righttime Medical Care, HeadFirst evaluates and treats thousands of patients annually for head injuries, using a variety of tests to diagnose concussions. Among them are examinations that measure and resolve issues with ocular-motor function, migraines, vestibular function, emotional well-being, cervical health, cognitive skills, and insomnia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1.7 million Americans are affected every year by concussion, which occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head changes the way the brain normally works, although the number is likely much higher due to underreporting.

Dr. Graw defines a concussion as a “constellation of symptoms and neurological dysfunction, which often will occur with normal CT scan results.” He also cautions that the blood test in the news this week isn’t available to the average medical practice evaluating a suspected brain injury: “Right now, the Brain Trauma Indicator test is geared to military personnel and professional football players, who are at risk for disastrous brain injuries on the battlefield or playing field, and who could benefit from early identification of these biomarkers.”

“That said, it’s exciting to see new developments in this complex field and I look forward to the day when a rapid test to identify concussions is available to measure a full range of indicators beyond just physical hemorrhaging to the brain,” Dr. Graw said.