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Study: Saliva Test Can Diagnose Concussions

Andy Berg

A study conducted by the University of Birmingham in England has found that concussions may be diagnosed using saliva tests.

Researchers took saliva samples from 156 rugby players who had head injury assessments during matches in England’s top two divisions in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Using biomarkers within the saliva, the researchers found they were able to successfully predict the outcome of a HIA in 94 percent of cases.

The research team is now seeking further samples to expand the test.

“This study, its rigor and outcomes, demonstrates the value in a targeted, scientific approach and reflects rugby’s progressive commitment to player welfare,” Dr. Éanna Falvey, World Rugby’s chief medical officer told the Associated Press, “and we are examining potential next steps.”

Premiership Rugby has indicated it will support the next stage of research.

“A non-invasive and accurate diagnostic test using saliva is a real game-changer and may provide an invaluable tool to help clinicians diagnose concussions more consistently and accurately,” said Dr. Valentina Di Pietro, who works at the University of Birmingham and took a lead role in the study. “In professional sports, this diagnostic tool may be used in addition to current head injury assessment protocols and return to play evaluation to ensure the safety of individuals.”

Researcher Antonio Belli, professor of trauma neurosurgery at the University of Birmingham, said saliva testing could even be used in the military.

“The differences in the salivary concentration of these biomarkers are measurable within minutes of injury, which means we can make rapid diagnoses,” Belli said.

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