Brain Injury: New Developments

imagesA brain protein, tau, may be an indicator of the length of time required for recovery from a concussion.

A research team from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a study of college athletes (NCAA Div. I and III) from a mix of sports.  Tau levels were measured preseason and within six hours following a concussion.

Tau was already a suspect in brain illnesses, having been identified as a factor in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Tau levels jump after concussion, and higher levels are linked statistically to longer recovery time requirements.

The research focused strictly on athletes and on defining an objective measure of when a player should be allowed to go back into play.  The report calls for follow-on studies including the capture of blood samples on the sidelines of games to assess how quickly tau levels change and whether that could be used as an immediate indicator.

However there are potential applications of tau to other situations and occupations, for example, people involved in traffic accidents and in law enforcement.  Is tau a potential measure of long term injury?  Could the metric be used to assess how long a worker should be out after a work-related injury?  Frankly, if tau works for athletes, it’s hard to see why it wouldn‘t work in these other situations.


  • Jessica Gill, Kian Merchant-Borna, Andreas Jeromin, Whitney Livingston, Jeffrey Bazarian. Acute plasma tau relates to prolonged return to play after concussion. Neurology, 2017; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003587 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003587
  • University of Rochester Medical Center. “Brain protein predicts recovery time following concussion.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2017. <>.


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