Around 400,000 high school and college athletes suffer a concussion each year, and it's no surprise that football players are the most at risk. In fact, at least one player sustains a mild concussion each football game.
But now there's a new test that can show within seconds if a player should be pulled from the game, even when it doesn't seem obvious that they've had a concussion.
Baldwin College senior Zach Barley has taken some hard hits. He was once pulled from a game after suffering a concussion.
Cleveland Clinic and the University of Rochester developed a blood test for before, during and after a game to find out if hard hits can damage the blood-brain barrier, the lining that prevents harmful molecules from getting into the brain. When a player is hit hard, that barrier is breached.
"The blood test is based on a molecule called S100B, which is present similarly in the brain and is normally not present in the blood. When the barrier breaches, these molecules show up in the blood," said Dr. Damir Janigro of Cleveland Clinic.
When these molecules get into the blood, the body's immune system attacks as if there were a pathogen, bacteria, fungus or some other enemy to fight. It can attack brain tissue, similar to what happens in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Right now, Zach's brain is intact, and he said he was not willing to risk his life for a game.
The new test means he and other plays won't have to take that risk.
Researchers hope to continue developing the blood test and one day have it used on the sidelines of every sports game.