New study to improve concussion diagnosis

Last updated: 05 Jan 2022 Topics: Elite athletes Safeguarding children

Premier League footballers are taking part in a new study on concussion that could lead to a means of pitch-side diagnosis.

The study, carried out by medics from the University of Birmingham, will use samples of saliva and urine (through to the 2023/24 season) from players who have experienced head injuries on the pitch and use them to test against players who haven’t. This follows similar research in top-flight UK rugby players by the University of Birmingham, during the 2018/19 season, which was 96% accurate at identifying concussed players.

It’s thought that the data from this study could lead to the development of a hand-held device that could be used on the sidelines to effectively identify concussion earlier, leading to early and more effective treatments.

This early detection and removal from play would mean that further harm to athletes could be prevented. It’s thought that the technology could be used across all levels of sport.

In youth sport this could mean better protection for young athletes from a lifetime of lasting effects.

Professor Tony Belli, lead of the ‘Birmingham Concussion Test’, described the device:

'There will be a drop of saliva going on a chip and the chip is then inserted into a device, with the results sent to a mobile phone or tablet and the doctor would be able to see and interpret the results, possibly within a minute or two.'

The research responds to a call on the government from MPs in 2018 to introduce better concussion protocols in sport.

Alongside many other sports organisations, we look forward to seeing the results of this study and the development of new technology.

Further information 

For further information on concussion, including how to identify it and treat it, visit Headway's Concussion Aware pages.