A Biomarker Study of Head Injury in Rugby – Update February 2017

The Drake Foundation study in collaboration with Saracens, UCL, and Imperial College London (Supported by the RFU)

Our longitudinal biomarker, imaging and psychometric study of concussion in sports is underway. The cohort has now increased to over 100 participants from Championship and Premiership Rugby teams; the research cohort continues to expand as we recruit further teams to the study.

We are analysing blood, urine and saliva samples pre and post concussive events to identify markers that would be useful in diagnosing and monitoring the syndrome of concussion. For example, tau and neurofilament light chain, proteins that have previously been shown to be affected in concussion injury.

We will be starting MRI brain scans and psychometric tests (in our collaborating centre – The Computational, Cognitive & Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory, Imperial College, London) on participants this month. This branch of the study should provide additional information on the associated radiological and cognitive features of concussion.

Accelerometers were used in the pilot phase of the study to assist in the detection of concussive events, but we are now using medically defined concussion across the participating clubs. We aim to analyse biomarker, radiological and psychometric data over the next two years as part of the process of developing more robust diagnostic and prognostic markers of concussion in rugby.