Rugby Study Identifies New Method Using MicroRNAs in Saliva to Diagnose Concussion; Results Pave Way for First Non-Invasive Clinical Test for Concussion for Use in Sport and Other Settings

A University of Birmingham-led study of top-flight UK rugby players--carried out in collaboration with the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby, and Marker Diagnostics--has identified a method of accurately diagnosing concussion using saliva, paving the way for the first non-invasive clinical test for concussion for use in sport and other settings. Following the scientific team’s previous research (, which identified that the concentration of specific molecules (microRNAS) in saliva changes rapidly after a traumatic brain injury, the researchers embarked on a three-year study in elite rugby to establish if these “biomarkers” could be used as a diagnostic test for sport-related concussion. Using DNA sequencing technology in the laboratory at the University of Birmingham, the research team tested these biomarkers in saliva samples from 1,028 professional men’s rugby players competing in English rugby’s top two leagues--the Premiership and the Championship. The results of SCRUM (Study of Concussion in Rugby Union through MicroRNAs), published online in March 2021 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has for the first time shown that specific salivary biomarkers can be used to indicate if a player has been concussed. Additionally, the research has found these biomarkers provide further insights into the body’s response to injury as it evolves from immediately after trauma, to several hours and even days later. The open-access article is titled “Unique Diagnostic Signatures of Concussion in the Saliva of Male Athletes: The Study of Concussion In Rugby Union Through MicroRNAs (SCRUM)” (https://Bjsm.Bmj.Com/Content/Early/2021/02/09/Bjsports-2020-103274).
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