Elevations in MicroRNA Biomarkers in Serum Are Associated with Measures of Concussion, Neurocognitive Function, and Subconcussive Trauma over a Single National Collegiate Athletic Association Division i Season in Collegiate Football Players

Linda Papa, Semyon M. Slobounov, Hans C. Breiter, Alexa Walter, Tim Bream, Peter Seidenberg, Julian E. Bailes, Stephen Bravo, Brian Johnson, David Kaufman, Dennis L. Molfese, Thomas M. Talavage, David C. Zhu, Barbara Knollmann-Ritschel, Manish Bhomia

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4 Scopus citations


This prospective controlled observational cohort study assessed the performance of a novel panel of serum microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers on indicators of concussion, subconcussive impacts, and neurocognitive function in collegiate football players over the playing season. Male collegiate student football athletes participating in a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were enrolled. There were a total of 53 participants included in the study, 30 non-athlete control subjects and 23 male collegiate student football athletes. Neurocognitive assessments and blood samples were taken within the week before the athletic season began and within the week after the last game of the season and measured for a panel of pre-selected miRNA biomarkers. All the athletes had elevated levels of circulating miRNAs at the beginning of the season compared with control subjects (p < 0.001). Athletes with the lowest standard assessment of concussion (SAC) scores at the beginning of the season had the highest levels of miRNAs. The area under the curve (AUC) for predicting pre-season SAC scores were miR-195 (0.90), miR-20a (0.89), miR-151-5p (0.86), miR-505∗ (0.85), miR-9-3p (0.77), and miR-362-3p (0.76). In athletes with declining neurocognitive function over the season, concentrations of miRNAs increased over same period. There were significant negative correlations with miR-505∗ (p = 0.011), miR-30d (p = 0.007), miR-92 (p = 0.033), and (p = 0.008). The miRNAs correlating with balance problems were miR-505∗ (p = 0.007), miR-30d (p = 0.028), and miR-151-5p (p = 0.023). Those correlating with poor reaction times were miR-20a (0.043), miR-505∗ (p = 0.049), miR-30d (p = 0.031), miR-92 (p = 0.015), and miR-151-5p (p = 0.044). Select miRNAs were associated with baseline concussion assessments at the beginning of the season and with neurocognitive changes from pre to post-season in collegiate football players. Should these findings be replicated in a larger cohort of athletes, these markers could potentially serve as measures of neurocognitive status in athletes at risk for concussion and subconcussive injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1343-1351
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology

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