• Reuters

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Swedish researchers have devised a blood test that could better diagnose sports-related brain injuries and prevent players from returning to the field in danger.

In findings from a study of ice hockey players, the researchers said their method can show just an hour after a head injury how severe the concussion is, whether there is a risk of long-term symptoms, and when the player can return to the sport.

“In ice hockey and other contact sports, repeated concussions are common, where the brain has not finished healing after the first blow,” said study leader Henrik Zetterberg of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg. “This kind of injury is particularly dangerous, but there have not been any methods for monitoring how a concussion in an athlete heals.”

Zetterberg’s team examined blood samples from players in the Swedish Hockey League who had a concussion. They found that having raised levels of a nerve cell protein called tau in the blood was a marker of concussion. By measuring tau levels in regular tests, the researchers could say how severe the concussion was just an hour after the injury, and could predict with a high level of certainty which players would have long-term symptoms.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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