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Concussion recovery isn't same for every football player

Concussion symptoms include seizures, repeated vomiting, severe or progressively worsening headache, unsteady gait, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, and unusual behavior. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler/U.S. Air Force
Concussion symptoms include seizures, repeated vomiting, severe or progressively worsening headache, unsteady gait, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, and unusual behavior. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler/U.S. Air Force

Certain high school and college athletes require a longer-than-normal recovery period after a concussion. Researchers say blood tests can predict which ones.

"With so many people sustaining concussions and a sizable number of them having prolonged symptoms and recovery, any tools we can develop to help determine who would be at greater risk of problems would be very beneficial, so these results are a crucial first step," said study author Timothy Meier, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.

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Meier and his colleagues studied 41 football players who suffered a concussion --none lost consciousness -- and a "control group" of 43 players without concussion.

All of the players had blood tests at the beginning of the season. Those who suffered a concussion had blood tests within six hours after the injury, 24 to 48 hours later, and eight, 15 and 45 days later. Players in the control group had blood tests at similar times for comparison.

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The blood tests were checked for levels of seven inflammation "biomarkers" that are associated with more severe brain injury.

Levels of two of the biomarkers -- interleukin 6 and interleukin 1 receptor antagonist -- were higher among players with concussion six hours after the injury compared to players in the control group, the findings showed.

The researchers also found that players with higher levels of interleukin 6 six hours after a concussion were more likely to take longer to recover from their symptoms.

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Overall, players with concussion had symptoms for an average of 8.9 days. Eight of the 17 athletes with concussion and high interleukin 6 levels at six hours after their head injury still had concussion symptoms eight days later, the investigators found.

The study was published online July 3 in the journal Neurology.

"These results demonstrate a meaningful increase in the levels of interleukin 6 for athletes who sustained a concussion compared to athletes who did not," Meier said in a journal news release.

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"Eventually, these results may help us better understand the relationship between injury and inflammation, and potentially lead to new treatments," Meier added.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on concussion.

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