In 2015, Will Smith starred in “Concussion,” which told the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who, during a 2002 autopsy, discovered that former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Years later, one study showed that 99 percent of symptomatic NFL players autopsied brains revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and another found that 43 percent of retired players had signs of brain injuries.
Then in 2017 Dr. Omalu warned: “I’ve always said that every child who plays football has a 100 percent risk of exposure to brain damage. And … at a professional level, 100 percent would have brain damage of some kind to some degree … whether or not their brains are found to have CTE.”
So it’s good news that a breakthrough blood test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, can quickly (currently in four hours, soon to be two) identify two blood proteins that determine if a person has a concussion. The Food and Drug Administration says that the test can correctly predict a CT scan’s findings of intracranial lesions 97.5 percent of the time and should significantly reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from scans while saving millions of dollars annually.
Although approved only for adults, one day soon it may help parents be ever more vigilant about protecting their children from the accumulated damage caused by sports-related brain injuries — which skyrocketed 200 percent from 2001 to 2012.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.