- Past studies show urine samples provide an accurate indicator of head injuries
- If the trial is successful, a device could diagnose concussion in just two years
- The lack of a reliable concussion test is a substantial treatment challenge
- Past research shows concussion occurs as often as every six rugby games
- Such injuries are thought to account for 25% of all those that occur in the sport
A simple saliva test could determine rugby players’ risk of concussion at the side of the pitch.
Previous studies have shown urine samples collected immediately after collisions provide an accurate indicator of head injuries.
If the upcoming trial is successful, a device could be available that immediately diagnose concussion in as little as two years, according to the study’s lead researcher.
The lack of a reliable concussion test is considered a substantial challenge in treating such injuries.
Past research demonstrates concussion occurs as often as every six rugby games and accounts for around 25 per cent of the sports’ injuries.
A saliva test could determine rugby players’ risk of concussion at the side of the pitch (stock)
HEADING A FOOTBALL RAISES THE RISK OF DEMENTIA
Footballers could be risking dementia by suffering repeated minor injuries when they head the ball.
A study of 14 retired footballers found four had a condition known to cause dementia, while six had Alzheimer’s disease.
Repeated blows to the head suffered on the field, from headers and colliding with other players, are thought to be the cause.
It comes 15 years after the death of England striker Jeff Astle, whose inquest suggested he developed dementia as a direct result of heading heavy leather footballs.
The Football Association has recently been urged to consider a ban on children under 10 doing headers in training and matches.
A team from University College London studied 13 professional footballers and one amateur player, examining the brains of six after their deaths.
They found four had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can cause dementia and has also been found in boxers and rugby players.
How the study will be carried out
Researchers from the University of Birmingham will analyse the saliva samples of premiership and championship rugby players who suffered a confirmed or suspected concussion in 2017 to 2018.
Previous studies have shown urine samples collected immediately after a concussion provide an accurate indicator of head injuries.
The study’s participants will then provide follow-up samples as they prepare to return-to-play.
Such samples will be compared against players from the same game who did not suffer concussion or who had other injuries.
Concussion could be tested on the side of the pitch
Lead researcher Professor Tony Belli said: ‘The University of Birmingham recently made a significant breakthrough after identifying molecules, which can be found in saliva and act as biomarkers to indicate whether the brain has suffered injury.
‘If these biomarkers are found reliable, we can continue our work with industrial partners with the hope to have a device available within the next two years that will instantaneously diagnose concussion on the pitch-side with the same accuracy as in the laboratory – a major step forward for both sport and medicine,’ the BBC reported.
If the study is successful, it could lead to the development of a device that tests the risk of head injuries on the side of the pitch. This could be available in as little as two years.
Dr Simon Kemp, the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) chief medical officer, who describes the study as an important piece of research, adds: ‘There is currently no reliable or proven biomarker or objective test for the diagnosis of concussion and this lack of objectivity is the biggest challenge facing medical professional in dealing with this type of injury.’
The study is being carried out alongside the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association.