Breathalyser Test May Spot Concussion On Sports Fields

Scientists Unveil Breath-Based Rapid Concussion Test


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463
A new breathalyser-based test has been developed that its proponents say could help determine whether a sports player has suffered a concussion.

University of Birmingham experts Dr Toni Belli and Dr Michael Grey have proposed the use of the device, which they presented at the university's annual science festival.

It would work by detecting whether a player has been concussed through the presence of certain chemicals that would only show up if such a level of harm has occurred following a blow to the head. They said these can be revealed in blood, urine or even breath.

The pair said the breathalyser could show within five to ten minutes if a player was concussed or not.

Professor Grey noted that some symptoms of concussion do not show up until hours later or even the following day, meaning the current tests aimed at establishing whether a player has been concussed or not are not entirely reliable.

These tests include the five-minute assessment rule introduced by the International Rugby Board in 2012, which has been widely criticised.
Professor Belli told his audience at the festival: "Some players have said it's easy to fudge that test. 

"I'm concerned about the way it's being used. If a player has concussion and you send that player back on the pitch you are potentially putting that player's health at risk."

Controversies over the issue of concussion in sport have become increasingly high-profile following a number of recent incidents and cases.

Among these were instances during the recent football World Cup when players were allowed to remain on the pitch despite being concussed, such as Germany's Christoph Kramer, who received a blow on the head in the final but was allowed to continue for several minutes. He reportedly asked the referee "Is this the final?" before he was belatedly substituted.

Pressure on sporting authorities has also arisen from a lawsuit in California, in which mothers of young football players have been seeking to force the authorities to restrict the frequency with which youngsters are allowed to head a ball.

Expert Opinion
Concussion resulting from head injuries can be particularly dangerous for those who play physical sports, such as rugby and football, and there has been a lot of attention on how these injuries are dealt with in recent months. We would welcome the use of this technology at sporting events as all too often players continue to play after a head injury and current tests are not definitive enough.

“Being able to categorically say an individual is suffering from concussion following a head injury will ensure they are removed from the field of play and able to receive the treatment they need immediately, rather than waiting until after the final whistle, when the condition may have worsened.

“In our work on behalf of victims of serious head injuries we have seen the consequences such issues can have, so we understand the problem and believe it is vital that the importance of it should not be underestimated by those in charge of sport. It is vital strategies and policies are implemented to ensure, when such incidents occur, the wellbeing and best interests of players and competitors affected are always the top priority. This new test could play a part in this process if it is proved to be successful and reliable.”
Stephen Nye, Partner