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Ontario researchers close in on groundbreaking concussion test

Concussions are perhaps the most common form of brain injury: they can occur at any time and to anyone, from high-level athletes to retirees walking from their car to their front door. While a single concussion is unlikely to cause lasting damage, these injuries become more dangerous as they reoccur. Unfortunately, because concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose, victims often do not realize they are vulnerable and leave themselves susceptible to additional injuries. The effects of multiple concussions are life-changing; brain injury lawyers can help victims access compensation.

Concussions are most commonly seen in contact sports like hockey and football; athletes suffer a blow to the head, shake it off, and get back into the action because no fast and simple diagnostic test exists.

However, a team of researchers in London, Ontario is aiming to change this. They have developed a blood test that they say can determine whether an individual has suffered a concussion with between 90 and 95 per cent accuracy, easily surpassing the medical community’s generally accepted 70 per cent threshold.

The development has generated excitement among researchers, athletes, and brain injury lawyers.

“For the last 10 years or so it’s kind of been the Holy Grail in traumatic brain injury research,” said Dr. Douglas Fraser, the project’s lead researcher and a physician in the London Health Sciences Centre’s Pediatric Critical Care Unit, to the CBC.

Today, doctors generally rely on two tools to diagnose concussions: medical imaging, which often produces inconclusive results; and physical testing to assess the presence of a variety of observable physiological symptoms. Blood tests have also been used, but generally focus on one or two molecules at a time. Dr. Fraser’s test ‘focuses on the levels of metabolites in the blood, a waste product generated by the body that acts as a set of chemical fingerprints,’ the CBC reported in November.

“By measuring all of these things it gives you a very good idea of what’s going on in the body at any given time, including an injury,” Fraser said. “We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that the pattern of change for 174 metabolites was really quite dramatic with an injury. It got to be quite easy to separate who had had an injury and who had not based on those patterns.”

The researchers’ concussions blood test remains in its infancy, and today can only be performed in the confines of a high-tech laboratory. However, the team believes it could soon require much more accessible equipment and be performed for as little as $40. Brain injury lawyers believe this accessibility could help reduce concussion’s troubling prominence.

“This is something with today’s technology would be the size of a toaster and could sit on a bench somewhere,” Fraser explained. “This is something that could be in an emergency room, in an athletic locker, it could be on the front lines of a military conflict.”

Until such time as Dr. Fraser’s test becomes more widely available, the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP urge head injury victims to remember the risks of incurring multiple concussions. If you’ve received a blow to the head and are unsure whether you’ve suffered a concussion, err on the side of caution and avoid risky behaviour. Contact Will Davidson LLP today for more information.

Photo credit: shgmom56/Flickr

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