Should Doctors Be Able to Predict Brain Injury Recovery?

You usually don’t hear the words “concussion protocol” thrown around in the context of an NBA game, but in these playoffs, the fear of concussions has been front and center. In the series involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, Cavaliers’ forward J.R. Smith was suspended for essentially knocking another player unconscious.

Similarly, Golden State Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson was nearly held out of Game 1 of the Finals because of a concussion he suffered after inadvertently being kneed in the head by Trevor Ariza of the Houston Rockets. Indeed, every concussion is different, so they should (and must) be treated differently. But should doctors be able to predict how concussion sufferers may recover from their injuries?

According to a University of Illinois study, predictions may be able to be made if a doctor can study the reaction of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene and how it forms new neurons in the brain. Basically, the BDNF gene can play a significant role in the recovery from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Researchers were able to determine that if a particular combination of polymorphisms were present, it would give doctors a clue that a person would be more sensitive to brain injuries, and therefore may recover differently than another person.

Indeed, this research is only experimental, but it could be helpful in assessing future concussions. It may not change the expectations and duties for doctors right now, but as the research becomes more mature, it will help in treating people who suffer brain injuries in the future.

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