Concussion-associated gene variant COMT rs4680 is associated with elite rugby athlete status

Mark Antrobus, Jon Brazier, Peter Callus, Adam Herbert , Georgina Stebbings , Stephen Day, Liam Kilduff , Mark Bennett, Robert Erskine , Stuart Raleigh , Malcolm Collins , Yannis Pitsiladis , Shane Heffernan , Williams Alun

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


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 eight concussion-associated risk polymorphisms. We hypothesized that concussion-associated risk genotypes and alleles would be underrepresented in elite rugby athletes compared to non-athletes.

A case-control genetic association study.

Institutional (university).

Elite Caucasian male rugby athletes (n = 668, mean (standard deviation) height 1.85 (0.07) m, mass 102 (12) kg, age 29 (7) yr) and 1015 non-athlete Caucasian men and women (48% men).

Genotype was the independent variable, obtained via PCR of genomic DNA using TaqMan probes.

Main Outcome Measure:
Elite athlete status, with groups compared using χ2 and odds ratio.

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 non-athletes (30.2%, 77.6%, and 54.0%; P < 0.05). The Val/Val (GG) genotype was more common in elite rugby athletes than non-athletes (odds ratio 1.39, 95% confidence interval 1.04-1.86). No other polymorphism was associated with elite athlete status.

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 amongst athletes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Journal of Sport Medicine
Early online date29 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Mar 2022


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