Association of Blood Biomarkers of Inflammation with Acute Concussion in Collegiate Athletes and Military Service Academy Cadets

Timothy B. Meier*, Daniel L. Huber, Bryna D. Goeckner, Jessica M. Gill, Paul Pasquina, Steven P. Broglio, Thomas W. McAllister, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Michael A. McCrea

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background and ObjectivesThe objective was to characterize the acute effects of concussion (a subset of mild traumatic brain injury) on serum interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1 receptor antagonist (RA) and 5 additional inflammatory markers in athletes and military service academy members from the Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education Consortium and to determine whether these markers aid in discrimination of concussed participants from controls.MethodsAthletes and cadets with concussion and matched controls provided blood at baseline and postinjury visits between January 2015 and March 2020. Linear models investigated changes in inflammatory markers measured using Meso Scale Discovery assays across time points (baseline and 0-12, 12-36, 36-60 hours). Subanalyses were conducted in participants split by sex and injury population. Logistic regression analyses tested whether acute levels of IL-6 and IL-1RA improved discrimination of concussed participants relative to brain injury markers (glial fibrillary acidic protein, tau, neurofilament light, ubiquitin c-terminal hydrolase-L1) or clinical data (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool-Third Edition, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, Balance Error Scoring System).ResultsParticipants with concussion (total, N = 422) had elevated IL-6 and IL-1RA at 0-12 hours vs controls (n = 345; IL-6: mean difference [MD] (standard error) = 0.701 (0.091), p < 0.0001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.283 (0.042), p < 0.0001) and relative to baseline (IL-6: MD = 0.656 (0.078), p < 0.0001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.242 (0.038), p < 0.0001), 12-36 hours (IL-6: MD = 0.609 (0.086), p < 0.0001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.322 (0.041), p < 0.0001), and 36-60 hours (IL-6: MD = 0.818 (0.084), p < 0.0001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.317 (0.040), p < 0.0001). IL-6 and IL-1RA were elevated in participants with sport (IL-6: MD = 0.748 (0.115), p < 0.0001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.304 (0.055), p < 0.0001) and combative-related concussions (IL-6: MD = 0.583 (0.178), p = 0.001; IL-1RA: MD = 0.312 (0.081), p = 0.0001). IL-6 was elevated in male (MD = 0.734 (0.105), p < 0.0001) and female participants (MD = 0.600 (0.177), p = 0.0008); IL-1RA was only elevated in male participants (MD = 0.356 (0.047), p < 0.0001). Logistic regression showed the inclusion of IL-6 and IL-1RA at 0-12 hours improved the discrimination of participants with concussion from controls relative to brain injury markers (χ2(2) = 17.855, p = 0.0001; area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC] 0.73 [0.66-0.80] to 0.78 [0.71-0.84]), objective clinical measures (balance and cognition; χ2(2) = 40.661, p < 0.0001; AUC 0.81 [0.76-0.86] to 0.87 [0.83-0.91]), and objective and subjective measures combined (χ2(2) = 13.456, p = 0.001; AUC 0.97 [0.95-0.99] to 0.98 [0.96-0.99]), although improvement in AUC was only significantly relative to objective clinical measures.DiscussionIL-6 and IL-1RA (male participants only) are elevated in the early-acute window postconcussion and may aid in diagnostic decisions beyond traditional blood markers and common clinical measures. IL-1RA results highlight sex differences in the immune response to concussion which should be considered in future biomarker work.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere207991
JournalNeurology
Volume102
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 23 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

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