Premiership Rugby to trial pitch-side saliva testing to diagnose concussion and brain injuries

Concussion protocols in the Premiership and Championship will be overhauled this season as players will take part in new pitch-side tests, including giving samples, to help diagnose brain injuries.

Players will provide urine samples, as well as saliva samples, during the new campaign, after studies showed that they could prove a speedier indicator of head injuries.

During matches, players with confirmed or suspected concussion will provide saliva samples immediately following the injury at pitch-side and will provide follow-up samples as they complete the return-to-play protocol in the week after.

These samples will be compared to those from players who were involved in the same game but did not suffer head injuries, as well as samples from those who suffered other, non-head injuries.

“We are keen to give it our full support,” Premiership Rugby’s Corin Palmer said.

The current Head Injury Assessments will continue to be used throughout the season but if the trial is successful, it could eventually lead to handheld devices to use in-game to assess whether the player is fit to play on.

The study is being carried out by the University of Birmingham, the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association.

“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,” said Neurosurgeon professor Tony Belli, who is leading the study.

George North has been involved in a number of controversial concussion incidents during his career (Getty Images)

“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.”

Dr Simon Kemp, the RFU’s…

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