Doctors hoping to use blood, saliva to test for brain injury

Posted at 4:30 AM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 12:00:33-04

Testing a football player’s blood or saliva from the sideline could soon determine whether or not it’s safe for them to play.

"What we're looking for is indeed something that's going to help us be more objective,” said Dr. Javier Cardenas with the Barrow Neurological Institute. "The idea is that it is going to be more precise."

Working with other partners, including the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Cardenas is part of a team researching if certain bio-markers can identify a concussion or stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Discovery of CTE -- a disease which can cause depression, instability and suicidal thoughts -- led to changes in the NFL. Repeat concussions are believed to cause it.

Tests can only currently be done after someone is dead. Cardenas research could – ultimately – lead to testing for CTE while still alive.

A recent study looked at the brains of more than 200 deceased football players and found nearly 90 percent had signs of CTE.