NFL blood levels are moderated by subconcussive impacts in a cohort of college football players

Leah H. Rubin, Ryan Tierney, Keisuke Kawata, Leroy Wesley, Jong Hyun Lee, Kaj Blennow, Henrik Zetterberg, Dianne Langford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Introduction: Repetitive subconcussive head impacts in contact/collision sports such as in US football are believed to contribute to long-term brain changes and chronic symptoms. However, the lack of tools to measure the effects of repeated subconcussion limits our understanding of potential contributions to neuropathological alterations including cellular damage. Methods: We examined subconcussive head impacts using an accelerometer-embedded mouthguard on changes in blood levels of neurofilament light (NFL) chain in 18 Division I college football players. Plasma levels of NFL and clinical symptoms were assessed at pre-post practices. The frequency and linear and rotational head accelerations recorded via the mouthguard were examined in relation to NFL plasma changes. Results: The frequency and magnitude of head impacts associated with increased NFL levels. The greater numbers of hits and head accelerations associated with greater pre- to post-practice NFL level increases (p < 0.05). Greater pre- to post-practice increases in NFL also associated with greater pre- to post-practice increases in S100β (p < 0.001), but not with total tau. Years of football experience and concussion history did not associate with changes in NFL. Conclusion: Acute changes in NFL may be a clinically useful peripheral marker in tracking acute brain damage in collegiate football players, and other contact sports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-462
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Injury
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 21 2019


  • Subconcussive
  • biomarker
  • head impact kinematics
  • neurofilament light chain
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology


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