How RFU will 'knock out' concussion
NEWS: The Rugby Football Union, along with the Premiership and the Rugby Players' Association have agreed to develop a ground-breaking pitch-side test to diagnose concussion and brain injury.
The study, led by the University of Birmingham, will run throughout the 2017/18 rugby season and is the biggest of its kind to take place in the history of United Kingdom sport.
The Test can be performed rapidly pitch-side and will determine whether a player has been concussed and has the potential to assist in return to play decisions.
The team at the University’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences, led by neurosurgeon Professor Tony Belli, has spent the last nine years carrying out research which has led to the development of a test that measures biomarkers present in the saliva and urine of players. The test, if validated, could be done on a hand-held device, which is currently under development.
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 RPA, 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,"
Simon Kemp, RFU Chief Medical Officer explained: "This is an important addition to the breadth of research we are undertaking into concussion and player welfare more broadly. There is currently no reliable or proven biomarker or objective test for the diagnosis of concussion and this lack of objectivity is the biggest challenge facing medical professional in dealing with this type of injury.
"While very much an exploratory piece of research, this is a project that has the potential to make a very significant impact on the diagnosis and management of players following concussion,"
Premiership Rugby Head of Elite Performance and Player Development, Corin Palmer said: "Premiership Rugby is committed to putting our clubs and players at the front and centre of what we do, and player welfare is our number one priority.
"This research has the potential to impact positively on the way in which we assess and manage concussion and as such as we are keen to give it our full support,"
Players participating in the study will provide saliva and urine samples to act as a base-line 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.
The study will be carried out during all Premiership and Championship club competitions where the HIA is in operation and will run alongside the existing HIA off field screen that will be for a fixed period of ten minutes