Concussions: GMU scientists discover a way that could change diagnoses

MANASSAS, Va. (WJLA) - Football is a sport of violent collisions, but it's not the only sport where there is concern that collisions will lead to serious concussions.

it doesn't matter the age group, it doesn't matter the gender -- we see it in basketball, soccer, and football.

A small lab on the Prince William campus of George Mason University recently focused on cancer research, and a discovery was made that could change the way concussions are diagnosed and could make playing sports safer.

Scientists Emmanuel Petricoin and Shane Casswell had the hypothesis that if they could find makers in saliva for early stage cancer, they could use that same body fluid to look at concussive events.

They set out to prove that hypothesis on a group of 12 and 13-year-old football players., taking their saliva samples at the beginning of the season. They also put sensors in all their helmets.

Then they logged the impact of the hits each player took and also took saliva samples each week. They then developed a specific nano particle that attracts the bio markers – substances in the body that measure organ function.

The discovery was interesting: Before and after concussion, there are visible differences in their salivary protein content. In other words, the content of the saliva changes when someone has suffered a concussion.

The hope is that this research will lead to a concussion test, and the goal is to develop a device that would be kept on the sidelines and if during the course of a game a player takes a hard hit, he or she could be tested right then and there.

Imagine having that in a mouth guard -- it could turn a certain color if the player suffers a concussion.

Though it will likely be years before the method is be perfected and put into use, because of the work of researchers in this lab, it’s now a real possibility.