Biomarkers in saliva test indicate head trauma
New research out of the University of Birmingham in England has found biomarkers the saliva test available can detect concussions in men. These results for men are within minutes. The biomarkers showcase how the body reacts and changes to head trauma hours and days after the initial incident.
The University has created the first non-invasive saliva concussion diagnostic test. The results showcased a 94% efficacy in their reporting for the male athletes.
This test has the potential to be instrumental in the early detection of concussions or head injuries. It is converting it into an over-the-counter testing kit for elite male athletes in the UK. Hopefully, if successful, it will be available to the United States as well.
But what is missing from this test?
While this is a remarkable find, testing for biomarkers in saliva has not yet commenced for women and children. Ongoing research is being conducted on the differences between male versus female concussions, with some exciting finds.
The Discrepancies between Male and Female Athletes
Though the exact cause remains unclear, the findings of this study show that females are potentially at a significantly greater risk for concussions than their male counterparts.
This study involving adolescent male and female soccer athletes studied sports-related concussions and the differences between the two. In their findings, most male sport-related concussions happen with direct contact with another player. On the contrary, many female athletes suffered from sports-related concussions from nonplayer contact such as heading the ball. When a player (mostly male) had a direct contact sports-related concussion, removal of play happened the day of the injury. In contrast, the female players might have had a sports-related concussion that would have gone undetected. The reason is simply that it is easier to track direct physical contact with another player. These findings revealed that the removal of males from play is approximately 1 ½ times greater than females.
How athletic trainers handle male and female head injuries is not equal either
Interestingly, when an athletic trainer was involved in the sports-related injury evaluation from the initial onset, the odds of immediate removal from the activity were three times greater for athletes, and males had a greater removal rate than the females. This study suggests the need for significant intervention for female athletes.
Besides immediate removal, the study showed that females had a 60% to 80% greater risk for a Sports-Related Concussion than their male counterparts. Part of this finding was due to the physiological differences between the male and female athletes.
Female athletes have lesser neck strength and overall circumference in comparison to their male counterparts. Similarly, there are differences that likely make females more prone to microstructural sports-related concussions. In addition, earlier sports specialization results in a greater chance of injury and sports-related concussions.
What do these saliva tests and findings mean for sports organizations and their liability?
Part of this study has shown us important facts. Just because coaches cannot see a direct sports-related concussion does not mean it does not exist or did not happen. Evaluations for female athletes need as much urgency as their male counterparts. When in doubt, immediate removal from play is necessary to reduce further risk of injury. The demand for athletic trainers for both male and female sports teams to help in the evaluation process is high. Having discrepancies and differences between the two sexes in any sports organization opens the organization up for a greater risk of litigation.
Hopefully, as the new saliva test becomes readily available to male athletes, more testing can begin on females and children. This will only better aid the organization in determining a sports-related concussion in the early stages. The next steps can then be taken to help the athlete prevent a dangerous second impact syndrome injury, whether male or female.
If you are looking for more information on sports risk management and protecting your organization, please visit our extensive risk management library of resources. It includes important forms, documents, articles, videos, and risk management program templates on how to reduce the risk of injuries as well as your insurance premiums. Pay special attention to our section on brain injury/concussion risk management.