Date: 17 January 2019
The NIHR is supporting a groundbreaking new study with Premier League footballers to review and potentially enhance how concussion is diagnosed in football.
This new study, funded by The Drake Foundation, involves collecting saliva and urine samples from injured Premier League players immediately post-match during the 2018/19 football season and at further time points in a players’ recovery.
These samples will then be tested using a new groundbreaking approach called the Birmingham Concussion Test, and compared with samples from uninjured control players.
The Birmingham Concussion Test has been developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), supported by the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC).
The test looks for molecules in the blood, saliva or urine known as microRNAs, which can act as biomarkers to indicate whether the brain has suffered injury.
This research expands on work begun at the NIHR SRMRC in 2017 that is testing the urine and saliva of concussed Rugby Football Union players - the ongoing REpetitive COncussion in Sport (RECOS) study.
In the future, the Birmingham Concussion Test could be used pitch-side and would have the potential to assist in return-to-play decisions or concussion diagnosis across sports, from grassroots to professional, in addition to military and other frontline settings.
Professor Tony Belli, academic neurosurgeon at the University of Birmingham and UHB and Director of the NIHR SRMRC, 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.
“This exciting new study is an important addition to the breadth of research we are undertaking into concussion and player welfare in sport more broadly.”
Dr Patrick O’Halloran, Sports Concussion Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, Sport and Exercise Medicine Registrar at UHB, and Academy Doctor at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, said: “This research has the potential to benefit professional, grassroots and youth level footballers alike, making the process for diagnosing concussion as effective as possible. Similarly, this may be valuable in other sports or for patients in NHS Accident and Emergency departments.”
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