Concussion-Associated Gene Variant COMT rs4680 Is Associated With Elite Rugby Athlete Status

Mark R Antrobus, Jon Brazier, Peter Callus, Adam J Herbert, Georgina K Stebbings, Stephen H Day, Liam P Kilduff, Mark A Bennett, Robert M Erskine, Stuart M Raleigh, Malcolm Collins, Yannis P Pitsiladis, Shane M Heffernan, Alun G Williams

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    Objective: Concussions are common match injuries in elite rugby, and reports exist of reduced cognitive function and long-term health consequences that can interrupt or end a playing career and produce continued ill health. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between elite rugby status and 8 concussion-associated risk polymorphisms. We hypothesized that concussion-associated risk genotypes and alleles would be underrepresented in elite rugby athletes compared with nonathletes. Design: A case-control genetic association study.Setting:  Institutional (university). Participants: Elite White male rugby athletes [n = 668, mean (SD) height 1.85 (0.07) m, mass 102 (12) kg, and age 29 (7) years] and 1015 nonathlete White men and women (48% men). Interventions: Genotype was the independent variable, obtained by PCR of genomic DNA using TaqMan probes.Main Outcome Measure:  Elite athlete status with groups compared using χ2 and odds ratio (OR). Results: The COMT rs4680 Met/Met (AA) genotype, Met allele possession, and Met allele frequency were lower in rugby athletes (24.8%, 74.6%, and 49.7%, respectively) than nonathletes (30.2%, 77.6%, and 54.0%; P < 0.05). The Val/Val (GG) genotype was more common in elite rugby athletes than nonathletes (OR 1.39, 95% confidence interval 1.04-1.86). No other polymorphism was associated with elite athlete status. Conclusions: Elite rugby athlete status is associated with COMT rs4680 genotype that, acting pleiotropically, could affect stress resilience and behavioral traits during competition, concussion risk, and/or recovery from concussion. Consequently, assessing COMT rs4680 genotype might aid future individualized management of concussion risk among athletes. 
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e145-e151
    Number of pages7
    JournalClinical Journal of Sport Medicine
    Issue number5
    Early online date29 Mar 2022
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

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    • rugby
    • genetics
    • concussion
    • brain
    • polymorphism
    • behavior


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