RFU to trial pioneering saliva test which could determine concussion
Last Updated: 30/08/17 8:01am
The RFU is set to trial a potentially major breakthrough in determining whether players have suffered a concussion.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have found a link between brain trauma and molecules found in saliva and urine.
Professor Tony Belli from the University has pioneered the test, which measures changes in the biological markers (biomarkers) present in the saliva and urine of players in response to trauma.
"What we have discovered recently is that after concussion, you can detect these compounds in very large amounts and they give you almost 100 per cent diagnostic confirmation that a concussion has occurred," Belli explained.
The test will be carried out at every single game in the Aviva Premiership and the Greene King IPA Championship this season.
Players were asked to provide baseline samples of saliva and urine prior to the season, with biomarkers in the urine intended to corroborate evidence found in the saliva.
Biomarkers in urine take longer to materialise, which is why the saliva will be counted on to determine whether head trauma has occurred during games.
The RFU will run a study alongside the current head injury assessment (HIA) which players receive when they have suffered a suspected concussion.
RFU Chief Medical Officer Dr Simon Kemp explained: "During that assessment, two millilitres of saliva will be taken in the medical room. That will solely be used this year for research purposes.
"Then after the game, saliva will be taken from a player who sustained a muscular injury and a player who hasn't been injured at all but has played for the same number of minutes.
"Urine and saliva samples will then be collected from them during their recovery.
"Then at the end of the season, we will look at the ability for saliva to be a better objective test, or not, of the way that we currently identify concussion and it will tell us the timescale for recovery."
If the trials are successful, concussion could be tested by a player spitting into a hand-held device, which could then indicate within minutes whether that person has suffered a brain injury.