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Side line concussions. Are we getting closer to diagnosing concussion more quickly?

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The issue of diagnosing concussion quickly, particularly in relation to sporting accidents is a hot topic.

Allowing a player to return to the pitch following a head injury can have serious consequences and lead to tragedy. Far too often players of all ages are being let back on the pitch to play without a full examination and also the current diagnosis of concussion relies heavily on players being honest about how they are feeling.

However, research in this area is progressing and there are currently new trials using a breathalyser to help detect concussion on the side lines. The breathalyser detects chemicals released by the brain when it is damaged using a breath test. Further research is needed to establish if these chemicals can be detected in player’s breath, but early indications from the trials are really positive.

Professor Toni Belli, Neurosurgeon and medical researcher from the University of Birmingham, commented on the research, “These biochemical compounds from the brain can be measured in a number of different fluids – for example, saliva and breath. At the moment a breathalyser is tuned to detect alcohol – but you can re-engineer it to detect other things. And you need to refine the technology at the same time, to detect very small amounts.”

This research opens up incredible possibilities in the diagnosis of concussion. By using the technology in this way, a concussion could be detected as early as within 5 or 10 minutes of the accident occurring.

Other research in the area also involves detecting concussion using blood tests. This is similar to the breathalyser in that the blood tests would be able to detect chemicals and molecules in the blood that the brain releases when it is damaged.

Currently, diagnosis of concussion or head injuries at hospital is generally done by using a brain scan. This is often costly and time-consuming and not widely available unless attending the hospital. Also, some scanning methods will not show up more subtle brain injuries.

However, this new research could mean that in the future signs of concussion and damage to the brain could be properly diagnosed pitch side and help to avoid the dire consequences if someone is allowed to return to play following a head injury.

At CFG Law, we are interested in any development in relation to diagnosing head injuries and concussion. Although many people do not see concussion as being a serious injury, it can result in long-term symptoms and escalate quickly if not treated correctly.

It is vital that if you suspect you, or a loved one, have sustained a concussion, that you seek medical advice. You will need plenty of rest in order to make a full recovery and should avoid any contact sport until you feel completely well.

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