A team of scientists and doctors studied more than 150 rugby players at England’s highest level between 2017 and 2019, comparing saliva samples collected before the season with samples collected as players were assessed for concussions or an injury to another part of their body. The researchers found the genetic markers in saliva determined with 94 percent accuracy which players had been diagnosed with concussions and which had not, co-author and University of Birmingham professor Antonio Belli said.
At present, a diagnostic test for concussions does not exist. Doctors diagnose them by interpreting behavior, symptoms and, in a hospital setting, imaging tests. The new findings could change how concussions are diagnosed in sports and beyond, helping patients that range from football players to victims of traffic accidents to soldiers on a battlefield.
“It is now possible to accurately identify concussions simply by analyzing players’ saliva, extending the ability to safeguard the brains of injured players outside professional ranks,” co-author Valentina Di Pietro said.
The Food and Drug Administration would need to approve any tests before they are used in the United States. The British researchers said they hope to submit a test for use in hospital settings for FDA approval in the near future.