Peeing into a cup might soon become commonplace at your local sports complex — not to check for steroids, but for concussions.
Researchers at the Universities of Lethbridge and Calgary have developed a test that can determine if an athlete is concussed by examining small molecules, called metabolites, in their urine.
“We’re looking … to see if any of those levels are changing on a quantitative level in response to the head or any traumatic brain injury, in order to determine whether a person was concussed or not,” University of Lethbridge Magnetic Resonance Facility director Dr. Tony Montina said.
A panel of 18 different metabolites has been developed and changes in their levels can be attributed to a concussion.
Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience professor Dr. Gerlinde Metz believes combining urinary analysis with current concussion-detection methods will create a more accuracy and efficient process for determining whether a brain injury has occurred.
“We have an opportunity to use urine, which is highly accessible and non-invasive,” Metz said. “It’s readily available on the field so we can do quick testing if something happens.”
The focus on head injuries in sports has grown considerably.
Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association general manager Keith Hitchcock says the organization is seeing fewer concussion on the ice, thanks to increased rules and injury protocols.
“They’re minor hockey, but they do have a 12 year career, just with minor hockey alone,” Hitchcock said.
“A career can last much longer than that, you don’t want to see long-term side effects with head injuries.”
The hope is this new technology will further reduce the risks, by better identifying head injuries and maybe even improve recovery.
“(We can) use some of these markers to monitor rehab strategies, with the idea that as you’re being treated, your physician should be able to personalize you’re treatment based on your response, as to whether that treatment is effective or not,” Montina said.
The research is still in its early stages and will now be tested on a wider demographic, to try and create parameters for age and gender.