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Researchers develop saliva test for sport-related concussion

Wed 31 Mar 2021

A new study has successfully found a way of detecting concussion using saliva from rugby players.

The study, named SCRUM (Study of Concussion in Rugby Union through MicroRNAs), was led by researchers at the University of Birmingham and done in collaboration with the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and Marker Diagnostics. The researchers found that specific biomarkers in saliva can be used to detect sport-related concussion, as well as how the body reacts after a head injury has been sustained.

It is the first time that saliva has been successfully used to identify concussion.

Samples of saliva were analysed from over 1,000 elite rugby players before and during standardised head injury assessments. The researchers found 14 different biomarkers that can be used alongside conventional reporting of symptoms during head injury assessments to accurately diagnose a concussion.

“This research has brought us one step closer to a simple, non-invasive, objective test for concussion that grassroots and professional sports can use to improve safety. This will hopefully reduce the number of concussions that are missed due to lack of technology, facilities or skillset to evaluate players, which is a huge problem in community sports.”

- Professor Antonio Belli, Senior Author and Professor of Trauma Neurosurgery

While the breakthrough brings scientists a step closer towards rapid concussion detection, further research is currently being conducted to investigate the test’s use and application.

The results of the study were published in British Journal of Sports Medicine and are available at

Reference: Di Pietro, V., O’Halloran, P., Watson, C.N., Begum, G., Acharjee, A., Yakoub, K.M., Bentley, C., Davies, D.J., Iliceto, P., Candilera, G., Menon, D.K., Cross, M.J., Stokes, K.A., Kemp, S.PT., & Belli, A. (2021). British Journal of Sports Medicine, Published Online First: 23 March 2021. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-103274


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