Physicians and others now recognize that seemingly mild, concussion-type head injuries lead to long-term cognitive impairments surprisingly often. A brain protein called SNTF, which rises in the blood after some concussions, signals the type of brain damage that is thought to be the source of these cognitive impairments, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Glasgow. The results, published online in Acta Neuropathologica, suggest that blood tests for SNTF might one day be used to diagnose diffuse axonal injury and predict cognitive impairment in concussion patients.
“The brain protein SNTF specifically indicates the presence of nerve fiber damage from diffuse axonal injury. The findings also confirm that even relatively mild, concussion-type brain impacts can cause permanent damage of this kind. In severe and fatal TBI cases, direct microscopic examination of the brain often reveals numerous swollen, degenerating, and even fully disconnected axons throughout the white matter—characteristic of diffuse axonal injury. Many brain injury specialists now suspect that this same type of damage, albeit less extensive, occurs in concussion.