A game-changer for concussion
A pocket-sized device with the potential to transform concussion testing in the field could be just two years away
A HAND-HELD device that gives a quick and accurate concussion diagnosis could be ready in as little as two years, if testing proves successful.
The University of Birmingham’s college of medical and dental sciences has spent nine years carrying out research that has led to the development of a test for concussion using saliva and urine.
Equestrians are at particular risk of concussion and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and British Eventing (BE) have protocols in place should a rider sustain a suspected head injury.
Being able to diagnose cases of concussion immediately and accurately after a fall could be game-changing for equestrian sport by allowing uninjured riders to continue, while those with a confirmed injury could take appropriate action promptly.
The University of Birmingham is working with the Rugby
Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association to trial the test through the 2017/18 season.
The test has the potential to help officials decide whether or not it is safe for a player to return to the match and researchers hope it could be used across sports, the
military and the NHS.
Neurosurgeon Professor Tony Belli has led the research and explained the university recently made a “breakthrough” in identifying molecules that can be found in saliva and act as biomarkers to indicate whether the brain has been injured.
PROFESSOR BELLI explained: “We will collect players’ saliva and urine pre- and post-injury, which we will then test in the laboratory to assess the reliability of these biomarkers.”
“If these biomarkers are found to be 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 BHA is among the pioneers in concussion protocols, research and development.
“This has been an area of research interest for some time and the aim is to produce a pitchside (trackside) test which is quick, easy to undertake, cheap and accurate,” BHA chief medical officer Dr Jerry Hill told H&H.
“This could give an objective measure of neural damage akin to that in heart attacks where the measurement of biomarkers, such as troponin, has been used for some years.”
Dr Hill added if such a product were available, it could “transform the diagnosis of concussion”, but there is a lot of science needed before that stage is reached.
“We will watch developments with interest,” he said. “In the meantime, the BHA is exploring other possibilities with colleagues from Imperial College London and University College Dublin (UCD) in the area of falls and helmet analysis and biophysical markers of concussion.”
While not every riders’ fall results in concussion, prompt and accurate diagnosis is essential for riders’ health