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New concussion test set for Aviva Premiership, Championship trial

George North is among a host of players who have had problems with concussion in his career. Tony Marshall/Getty Images

The Aviva Premiership and RFU Championship are set to trial a saliva test this season with the hope that it will diagnose concussion and brain injury pitchside.

The test is part of a University of Birmingham study, the biggest of its kind, in conjunction with the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Player's Association (RPA).

Players will provide urine and saliva samples to act as a base line, with any player suspected of suffering a concussion supplying a saliva sample immediately following injury.

The study comes on the back of high profile concussion cases in rugby, the latest seeing the failure of medical officials to assess a dazed Sonny Bill Williams in New Zealand's victory over Australia.

Depending on results, it could be used not only across amateur and professional rugby, but also in the NHS, with the test done on a hand-held device, which is currently in development.

"Early and accurate diagnosis of concussion is one of the biggest challenges we face clinically and is particularly a major concern in the sporting world," neurosurgeon Professor Tony Belli said.

"The University of Birmingham recently made a significant breakthrough after identifying molecules, which can be found in saliva and act as biomarkers to indicate whether the brain has suffered injury.

"In this exciting next study with the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA, we will collect players' saliva and urine pre and post-injury, which we will then test in the laboratory in order to assess the reliability of these biomarkers."

If successful it is expected a device will be available in the next two years.