There has been a push by health officials in England to introduce a sideline breath test in sports, especially high contact ones like rugby, in order to identify concussion in injured players.
“At the moment a breathalyser is turned to detect alcohol – but you can reengineer it to detect other things,” said Professor Tony Belli, neurosurgeon at the University of Birmingham.
Unlike the generally inefficient psychological assessments currently performed, or the lengthy MRI scans which are impractical under sporting conditions, this breath test could confirm whether the injured player can return to the field within minutes.
The test, which is still being trialled, is performed by detecting key chemicals in the affected’s brain which indicate bleeding and injury.
“These biochemical compounds from the brain can be measured in a number of different fluids for example, saliva and breath,” told Professor Belli, who concluded that the “return to play” decision could be made as little as ten minutes after the test is performed.
Earlier this year, medical staff for Uruguay’s football team made headlines after star player Alvaro Pereria was knocked unconscious after colliding with England’s Raheem Stirling, only to be allowed to return to the play shortly after regaining consciousness – a move professionals described as “potentially catastrophic”.