Concussion is big news in the sport of rugby at present – and rightly so.
Failure to diagnose or manage it correctly can lead to players having to give up the game, with many sufferers also experiencing ongoing difficulties with mental function, ranging from impaired memory to emotional problems. In rare cases, two concussions experienced over a short period of time (hours or even days) have resulted in death.
The problem is that concussion can occur without a person being knocked unconscious and, although there are already strict protocols followed by pitch side medical staff, there is no definitive test. This can make diagnosis difficult, especially in a high pressured situation.
Also, once a player has been diagnosed with concussion they will be excluded from training and playing for an extended period of time – so it’s important to get it right!
Now a study is being carried out by the University of Birmingham, in association with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association. It hopes to improve diagnosis by taking saliva samples from players suspected of having suffered a concussion.
Neurosurgeon Professor Tony Belli, who is leading the study, 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.”
He added: “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.”
A great potential development and one to keep an eye on!