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FDA approves first blood test to check for concussions

Concussions in professional athletes have gained increasing attention over the past several years.  However, athletes are not the only ones experiencing head trauma as they play.  There are an estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports and recreation related head injuries in the United States each year  [1].  Traumatic brain injury, including concussions, contribute to approximately 30% of all injury deaths [2] and roughly 20% of teens say they have already had a concussion diagnosis [3].

On February 14, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new blood test to detect concussions [4].  The technique can help limit the amount of CT scans done (and therefore radiation exposure) on patients with head injuries.  This is especially important for children and teens as childhood CT scans have been linked to increased cancer risks [5].  The test measures levels of two proteins- ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase and glial fibrillary acidic protein- which can be measured in the blood for 12 hours after brain injury.  This test has been able to predict negative CT results 99.6% of the time [4].


[1] Brain Injury Research Institute. (n.d.). What is a Concussion? Retrieved from Brain Injury Research Institute:

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, April 27). TBI: Get the Facts. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

[3] Veliz, P., McCabe, S. E., & Eckner, J. T. (2017, September 26). Prevalence of Concussion Among US Adolescents and Correlated Factors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 318(12), 1180-1182. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9087

[4] Brooks, M. (2018, February 14). FDA Clears First Blood Test to Aid in Concussion Diagnosis. Retrieved from Medscape:

[5] Sifferlin, A. (2013, May 22). To Scan or Not to Scan: Largest Study to Date Links Childhood CTs to Increased Cancer Risk. Retrieved from Time Magazine:

  • Hannah Tuttle

    Awesome post Crystal! This new test seems like a great less invasive approach (compared to MRI’s) to detect concussions particularly with children and teenagers who play contact sports. Hopefully this can increase early detection of concussions and lead to better outcomes with the more vulnerable populations!