Head injury in sport

George North Lions Rugby PlayersWith the Six Nations Rugby Union tournament in full swing, the subject of head injuries in sport arises once again.

Rugby players are in a position to be able to make informed decisions about the risks the sport poses as far as head and other injuries are concerned. Indeed, there is currently an ongoing debate about minimising the number of head injuries sustained in the sport through wearing headguards and changing the rules on tackling.

A trial to stop tackles above the armpit have been stopped after there was an increase in the number of instances of concussion. Matches in the Championship Cup were subject to the change in rules and saw a 67% increase in concussions.

Whilst it is unfortunate that the trial saw an increase in concussions, it is admirable the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was willing to trial a change to find out if a theory yielded the expected results.

Head injuries are also prevalent in football due to the act of heading the ball. A study was launched in January help improve the speed and accuracy for diagnosing concussion.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust are collecting saliva and urine samples from Premier League football players and also a control group of uninjured players. The samples are taken immediately after the match, and then at further intervals over the course of the recovery period.

The samples will then be taken away and analysed using the “Birmingham Concussion Test”, developed over 10 years of research led by Professor Tony Belli.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said:

“The exploration of the use of biomarkers to identify concussion is an exciting area of research that we hope will one day translate into a reliable and immediate sideline diagnostic tool. In the meantime, while this research continues to be developed, the focus must remain on educating sportspeople operating at all levels on the importance of taking an ‘if in doubt, sit it out!’ approach to head injuries in sport.”

We may not be able to always prevent head injuries from occurring, but all manner of research is a welcome as it may help understanding of various conditions caused by head injury.

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