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New Biomarkers Testing & Diagnosis for Concussions


Concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), has been a poorly understood condition known to the majority of healthcare providers as difficult to objectify and manage.

Historically, there has been no testing available to conclude an accurate diagnosis. In the absence of objective imaging findings of bleeding in the brain, a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” has been affixed to the condition, whereas if there’s evidence of traumatic bleeding then the diagnosis “traumatic brain injury” is applied.

Although Hartvigsen, Boyle, Cassidy and Carroll (2014) reported that 600 out of 100,000 Americans are affected every year by concussion, Jeter et al, (2012) reported that close to 40 percent of people experiencing a mild brain injury do not report it to their doctor, making accurate statistics very tricky to conclude. Despite potential under reporting in the people, we realize concussion is an issue that has consequences that are important from the perspective of a clinical result and we cannot afford to ignore this condition.

Mechanism of Injury: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Mild traumatic brain injury or concussion results from transfer of mechanical energy from the outside environment to the brain due to traumatic events where there’s a sudden acceleration and then a sudden deceleration of the mind and brain, such as in a Coup/Contrecoup injury during a whiplash scenario. As the brain is freely moving to a degree because it’s only surrounded by cerebral spinal fluid, it continues moving in the original direction and as the head “whips” rapidly in the opposite direction, the brain bounces off parts of the inner skull, which in turn rebounds shortly after the head changes direction. This is one easily defined mechanism of MTBI that doesn’t cause gross bleeding, yet leaves the brain injured through direct compression or overstretching (axonal shearing) of central nervous system components.

Although this has been examined extensively in the military, it’s been recently investigated in professional sports, where after several lawsuits and lives at risk, there are now definitive “concussion protocols” in place. Part of the protocols as reported from the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2016) is the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool 2 or SCAT2 that’s been adopted by numerous professional sports leagues. However, the majority of concussion victims are not active participants in the military or a professional sports team and many find their way into chiropractic practices as a consequence of sports injuries, car accidents, slip and falls and every other sort of head trauma etiology. Even though the mechanisms might vary, the induced end results are the same.

For generalized patient intake protocols, according to both Medicare and academia standards, a questionnaire outlining a summary of body systems is mandated, and part of those questions center on brain function. As reported by Jeter et al behavioral and cognitive symptoms, signs and symptoms are reported on standard patient intake questionnaires and require consideration of a diagnosis of concussion.

Prominent symptoms of concussion include: balance issues, vomiting, nausea, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, vision, light or noise sensitivity and sleep disturbances. Cognitive symptoms include deficits in attention, concentration, memory, mental processing speed, and working memory or decision making. Behavioral symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, depression and aggression. The researchers went on to report that approximately 25 percent of the cases can have these symptoms persist.

Diagnosis and Treatment for MTBI

As a profession, chiropractic is a important part of the rehabilitation for the concussion population as the post-traumatic patient typically presents to the average chiropractic practice. As chiropractors (along with all healthcare providers), even if you mix the history with the above symptoms inclusive of neurological, behavioral and cognitive traits, you then have the direction or “triage road map” of the way to conclusively differentially diagnose your individual, including what tests to consider conducting in order to do so. The first line of testing is to consider imaging to rule out bleeding and ensure the patient does not require an immediate consultation. Treating blindly can place your patient in risk that is possible.

Imaging of the brain requires either MRI or CAT scans, MRI being the more sensitive, and in the absence of bleeding, the diagnosis is limited to MTBI or concussion (used interchangeably). More recently, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has been a tool available to picture mTBI victims that uses tissue water diffusion speeds to determine bleeding at a very small level giving demonstrable evidence to brain injury. As reported by Soares, Marques, Alves, and Sousa, (2013), DTI has several issues to overcome to certify accuracy including, but not limited to, tissue type, integrity, barriers and quantitative diffusion rates that are required to infer molecular diffusion prices. DTI is a model based upon assumption with a outlook as a tool.

Historically, MTBI was exclusively diagnosed by an omission of advanced imaging findings and the presence and persistence of the neurology, cognitive and behavioral signs and symptoms. Today, brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) offer responses about carpal brain pathology that is both conclusive and reproducible. Based on Korley et al. (2015), brain-derived neurotrophic factors is a secreted autocrine (compound hormone or messenger in blood) which promotes the development, maintenance, survival, differentiation and regeneration of neurons. BDNF also is important for synaptic plasticity (strengthening of synapses over time) and memory processing. Germane to MTBI and concussion, BDNF has been implicated in decreasing brain injury, with elevations and restoring traumatic brain injury.

Korley went on to report that BDNF levels were the highest in the normal group with lower values in mTBI and even lower in traumatic brain injury (TBI) subjects. In addition BDNF values were associated with incomplete recovery of patients that were MTBI compared to moderate or severe TBI patients. Because of this, it has been ascertained that BDNF has for identifying associated sequelae at 6 23, a prognostic value.

Korley stated that BDNF is the most abundantly secreted brain neurotrophin and as a secreted protein and can be readily measured using well-established immune-assay methods, identifying it as a non-necrosis brain injury biomarker. This distinguishes BDNF from other biomarkers which are components of neurons and myelin based proteins among other structures. In order for structural fibers to be found in high abundance in circulation, adequate cellular necrosis and damage to the blood barrier membrane must be observed, however BDNF does not require cellular damage or necrosis to be observed in circulation enabling DDNF to be more plentiful in flow than structural proteins.

Following a traumatic brain event, BDNF supports synaptic reorganization and recovery during the brain circuitry “reconnection” phase. Therefore, a better prognosis is indicated by lowered values. In patients with a co-morbidity of BDNF of anxiety, depressive disorders and schizophrenia BDNF values on the day of injury predispose this population to incomplete recovery as a risk element. Korley et al.. Concluded that serum BDNF discriminates between MTBI and TBI cases. Also, diminished BDNF values are associated with recovery in identifying and useful symptoms 6-months post-trauma.


Simply put, a blood test could assist providers in concluding the existence and/or severity of traumatic brain injury or mild traumatic brain injury. An early diagnosis is afforded by the results so you can devise a treatment plan inclusive of changing activities of everyday living to prevent additional damage and optimize the repair procedure with minimizing further chemical, physical or emotional stressors.

Based upon interviews with leading neurologists and neurosurgeons who understand and have first-hand expertise of both receiving chiropractic care and handling and treating MTBI patients, it is strongly recommended that until the signs and symptoms of the neurologic, cognitive and behavioral abate that high-velocity rotational cervical adjustments be avoided to enable the brain to “repair and rewire” the connections without additional possibilities of and Coup/ Contrecoup energy to the mind. This is a recommendation which we agree while recognizing that chiropractic care should not be avoided adapted to allow the brain to heal.

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900Green-Call-Now-Button-24H-150x150-2.png



1. Hartvigsen, J., Boyle, E., Cassidy, J. D., & Carroll, L. J. (2014). Mild traumatic brain injury after motor vehicle collision: What are the symptoms and who treats them? A population-based 1-year inception cohort study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 95(Suppl. 3), S286-S294.
2. Jeter, C. B., Hergenroeder, G. W., Hylin, M. J., Redell, J. B., Moore, A. N., & Dash, P. K. (2013). Biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of mild traumatic brain injury/concussion. Journal of Neurotrauma, 30(8), 657-670.
3. British Journal of Sports Medicine. (2016). Sport concussion assessment tool 2. Retrieved from bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/Suppl_1/i85.full.pdf
4. Soares, J. M., Marques, P., Alves, V., & Sousa, N. (2013). A hitchhiker’s guide to diffusion tensor imaging. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(31), 1-14.
5. Korley, F. K., Diaz-Arrastia, R., Wu, A. H. B., Yue, J. K., Manley, G. T., Sair, H. I., Van Eyk, J., Everett, A. D., Okonkwo, D. O., Valadka, A. B., Gordon, W. A., Maas, A. I., Mukherjee, P., Yuh, E. L., Lingsma, H. F., Puccio, A. M., & Schnyer, D. M., (2015). Circulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor has diagnostic and prognostic value in traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma, 32, 1-11.


Additional Topics: Weakened Ligaments After Whiplash


Whiplash is a commonly reported injury after an individual has been involved in an automobile accident. During an auto accident, the sheer force of the impact often causes the head and neck of the victim to jerk abruptly, back-and-forth, causing damage to the complex structures surrounding the cervical spine. Chiropractic care is a safe and effective, alternative treatment option utilized to help decrease the symptoms of whiplash.

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The information herein on "New Biomarkers Testing & Diagnosis for Concussions" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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