brain scans

New brain clinic for sporting professionals opens

An advanced brain health clinic, which will specialise in injuries in retired rugby players, has opened at the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH).

The clinic will be run by experts within the field and is in partnership with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby (PRL).

The aim of the clinic is to explore the long-term effects of professional ruby on brain health after research earlier on this year found there may be an association between changes in brain structure and adults playing elite rugby.

Imperial College London’s study, which included forty-four elite rugby players, showed abnormalities to the brain and changes in white matter volume over a period. Over half of the participants had sustained a mild head injury whilst playing the sport.

Professor David Sharp, from the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London and the UK Dementia Research Institute, said: “Players, coaches, clubs and their support teams may have concerns about the long-term impacts of their sport on the brain, and how these risks can be assessed and mitigated.

"Our new clinic and the aligned research programme will use the latest clinical investigations to identify the cause long-term symptoms retired players may have and will help us to develop new ways to improving the brain health of retired rugby players.”

Players attending the new clinic will undertake a comprehensive set of assessments including:

  • A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment including a range of tests of their cognitive function.
  • Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (3T MRI) using a range of highly sensitive scanning techniques able to identify subtle structural and functional changes to the brain
  • Blood tests to identify treatable causes of neurological or psychiatric problems
  • Ultrasensitive blood biomarker assessment to determine the presence/signs of neurodegeneration or inflammation within the brain.

Simon Kemp, RFU Medical Services Director, said: “We’re delighted that the doors to this clinic are now open for clients. Since the initial announcement earlier this year we have worked hard with ISEH, PRL and Imperial College London to get things up and running. We hope this clinic will help many recently retired rugby players who might have concerns about their brain health, while allowing us to further develop our understanding in this area.”

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