Genetic Factors That Could Affect Concussion Risk in Elite Rugby
Elite rugby league and union have some of the highest reported rates of concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) in professional sport due in part to their full-contact high-velocity collision-based nature. Currently, concussions are the most commonly reported match injury during the tackle for both the ball carrier and the tackler (8–28 concussions per 1000 player match hours) and reports exist of reduced cognitive function and long-term health consequences that can end a playing career and produce continued ill health. Concussion is a complex phenotype, influenced by environmental factors and an individual’s genetic predisposition. This article reviews concussion incidence within elite rugby and addresses the biomechanics and pathophysiology of concussion and how genetic predisposition may influence incidence, severity and outcome. Associations have been reported between a variety of genetic variants and traumatic brain injury. However, little effort has been devoted to the study of genetic associations with concussion within elite rugby players. Due to a growing understanding of the molecular characteristics underpinning the pathophysiology of concussion, investigating genetic variation within elite rugby is a viable and worthy proposition. Therefore, we propose from this review that several genetic variants within or near candidate genes of interest, namely APOE, MAPT, IL6R, COMT, SLC6A4, 5-HTTLPR, DRD2, DRD4, ANKK1, BDNF and GRIN2A, warrant further study within elite rugby and other sports involving high-velocity collisions.