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Groundbreaking discovery finds saliva samples can diagnose concussion in players

A breakthrough in diagnosing concussion in rugby players' saliva samples has been made by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

Groundbreaking discovery finds saliva samples can diagnose concussion in players

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has taken part in the study for the past four years before the revelation had been made.

Players who suffered head injuries from both the Premiership and Championship had samples taken during and after the game.

Molecules, or biomarkers, found in the saliva allowed researchers to identify whether a player had suffered from concussion or not.

The discovery is currently only being performed within labs at present, however, it is hoped that in the near future it can be transformed into a pitch-side test to provide a quick and accurate reading after a possible concussion has taken place.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, RFU Professor Simon Kemp said: "deally we would like to have a test that could be used at all time points, so that very early time point.

"But we think in the first instance something that could confirm a concussion the next morning would be incredibly valuable and realistically deliverable in a short time scale.

"What we have seen with biomarkers is they change very quickly, so there is the potential to have a test, if we had the technology, that could be used very quickly after someone was removed. But that is not our immediate plan. Our immediate plan is to have one available at 24 hours".

Neurosurgeon and lead researcher, Professor Tony Belli, added: "Probably the most exciting thing is that this is on a non-invasive fluid.

"A lot of the research done on this type of work for the diagnosis of concussion is done on blood. That is great and we do some of that ourselves, but blood is not something you can do on the pitch-side. In certain situations you need a trained phlebotomist or doctor to take a blood sample. So actually having it in saliva is now in reach of everyone, by having a very simple mouth swab.

"The signal of concussion is really detectable immediately after the event. When rugby players were removed from the pitch immediately and had the first medical assessment, this biomarker of concussion was already there and was measurable".

Researchers from the University of Birmingham are now in talks to carry out similar tests in the Premier League and the Women's Super League.

Author: Jake Wilkin