The correlation between heavy-contact sports like football and rugby and concussions is well-known, but a new study out of the University of Birmingham takes it a step further by examining the sideline treatment of brain injuries.
As part of the Repetitive Concussion in Sport project, researchers hope to create a fast and reliable sideline test to determine if someone has been concussed. They also see this as a test to help players return to the game, across many different sports, from smaller teams to the pros. This sideline device could also improve diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries within the first hour, which for some players could mean the difference between life and death.
Currently, there is a way to test for biomarkers of traumatic brain injuries, but it’s inefficient. One of the main biomarkers is microRNA, molecules that play a central role in many biological processes, such as immune responses. They also can be used to detect cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. The most common method of identifying microRNA is through saliva or urine, but researchers envision developing a device that could be used on the sideline of rugby and American football games.
The study has the potential to alter the sideline care of concussions and traumatic brain injuries, but right now it’s still in the early stages. Both the Rugby Football Union and the university are nonetheless optimistic the results will benefit athletes of many kinds of sports. And they see this collaborative study as a step forward in reducing the number of brain injuries that now affect thousands of players.