Rugby players from Aviva Premiership Rugby and Greene King IPA Championship are to take part in a major study led by the University of Birmingham as part of its work to develop a ground-breaking pitch-side test to diagnose concussion and brain injury.
SBRI backed company, Biovici Diagnostics, are behind the biggest study of its kind to take place in the history of UK sport. It is a key element in the University of Birmingham’s research programme to create a test that can be performed rapidly pitch-side and will determine whether a player has been concussed.
The test also has the potential to assist in return to play decisions and could be used across sports, from grassroots to professional level. It is hoped it could also be used more widely by frontline medics in the NHS and military to improve diagnosis and treatment within the first critical hour after brain trauma.
Professor Belli said: “Early and accurate diagnosis of concussion is one of the biggest challenges we face clinically and is particularly a major concern in the sporting world.
“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.
“In this exciting next study with the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association, we will collect players’ saliva and urine pre and post-injury, which we will then test in the laboratory in order to assess the reliability of these biomarkers.
“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.”
Players participating in the study will provide saliva and urine samples to act as a baseline benchmark. During a match, players with confirmed or suspected concussion will provide saliva samples immediately following injury. Players will also provide follow-up saliva samples, as well as urine samples, as they go through the return to play protocol. These will be compared to the baseline benchmarks, plus those from players from the same game who did not suffer head injury, and those who had other injuries. If there are no Head Injury Assessments (HIAs) or confirmed concussions in a match, then no samples will be collected.