There are a few different ways to test for concussion today – most involve a physical examination and then a series of questions. But soon a simple saliva test could rapidly and accurately detect a concussion by measuring genetic changes in the brain after an injury.
Diagnosing the concussions that affect thousands of New Zealand sportspeople every year could soon become far more accurate.
Concussions can be tough to diagnose, especially on a busy sideline when the score’s close and the competition is fierce. It’s not an ideal scenario for working out if someone has had a potentially serious brain injury.
According to ACC figures, in the year to June, there were more than 14,000 accident claims relating to concussion and brain injury here in New Zealand, with about 4,000 of these claims sports related.
There are a few different ways to test for concussion today: most of them involve a physical examination and then a series of questions like “What day is it?…who are you playing against?…what’s the score?…and what ground are we at?” But there are concerns these memory-based tests can be subjective and potentially inaccurate.
But soon a simple saliva test could rapidly and accurately detect a concussion by measuring genetic changes in the brain after an injury.
A trial is already underway in England, with Premiership and Championship players rugby players giving saliva samples at the start of the season which are then compared to samples taken when they are injured in a game. The hope is that this study will clear the way for an instant, pitch-side test using a mass-produced, hand-held device.
Meanwhile American researchers have detected the precise chemical biomarkers in saliva that change after a head injury, which could lead to more objective and accurate concussion tests and better treatments. And already people are exploring possible applications to conditions like autism and Parkinson’s disease.