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Background: A continued interest in concussion biomarkers makes the eventual implementation of identified biomarkers into routine concussion assessment an eventual reality. We sought to develop and test an interdisciplinary approach that could be used to integrate blood-based biomarkers into the established concussion management program for a collegiate football team.

Methods: We used a CLIA-certified laboratory for all testing and chose biomarkers where clinically validated testing was available as would be required for results used in clinical decision making. We summarized the existing methods and results for concussion assessment across an entire season to identify and demonstrate the challenges with the eventual integration of a parallel process using blood-based tests for concussion management. We analyzed the results of the biomarkers chosen for trends consistent with the outcome assessments provided from the current concussion management protocols.

Results: Baseline samples were collected with three additional post-concussion samples collected at three separate time points from players with a diagnosed concussion (n = 12). A summary of results from currently used concussion assessment tools were compared to the representative biomarkers S100B and NSE results. Nine sport-related concussions occurred during practice and three during play. For S100B, 50 % had follow-up testing results lower than the post-injury result. In contrast, 92 % of NSE follow-up results were lower than post-injury. One hundred percent of the results for S100B and NSE were within the athlete-derived reference intervals upon return-to-play and season end.

Conclusions: The reported workflow provides a framework for the eventual implementation of biomarkers for concussion assessment into existing assessment protocols and strengthens the need for reliance on clinical laboratory testing. Athlete-specific reference intervals will be required to adequately interpret results.