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

Horse & Hound - - Newsinsider - By LUCY EL­DER

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

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