Emerging research suggests that female athletes may face specific challenges and experience a higher rate of concussions, along with a wider range of more severe and prolonged symptoms.

To address this critical need for tailored research, a groundbreaking international study on concussion in sportswomen has been announced by the organisation responsible for developing a concussion test specifically designed for adult males, built upon research conducted by Dr. Valentina Di Pietro and Professor Tony Belli at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Valentina Di Pietro, Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, the University of Birmingham explains,

“Concussion can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in settings such as grass roots sports where evaluation by a specialist clinician is not possible. Consequently, some concussions may go undiagnosed. A non-invasive and accurate diagnostic test using saliva is a real game changer and will provide an invaluable tool to help doctors diagnose concussions more consistently and accurately.”

This new study aims to shed light on the distinct impact of concussions in female athletes, with a particular focus on women’s rugby.

Understanding the Need for Female-Focused Research

Sportswomen experience a higher rate of concussion occurrence and potentially more severe symptoms compared to their male counterparts. The ongoing study on concussion in  women’s rugby serves as a significant step towards enhancing understanding of these specific challenges and improving outcomes for female athletes.

One key aspect of this research focuses on the analysis of small biomarkers found in saliva samples. Marker Diagnostics, a biotech company, is collaborating with elite and community-level rugby players to collect data. 

By analysing the changes in these biomarkers after a concussive event, Marker Diagnostics aims to provide medical professionals with an accurate and objective biological tool for diagnosing concussions. Following data collection during the latest Women’s World Cup, the testing is now used in rugby leagues including Allianz Premier 15s and the TikTok Women’s Six Nations. 

This groundbreaking approach has the potential to revolutionise concussion diagnosis, moving away from subjective tests and towards more precise and efficient methods.

Dr Veemal Bhowruth, University of Birmingham, said:

“With the higher rate of concussion with women athletes, and the growth in the women’s game, this study is both timely and much needed, to help ensure the welfare of athletes at all levels.”