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

    Antrobus, Mark R, Brazier, Jon, Callus, Peter, Herbert, Adam J, Stebbings, Georgina K, Day, Stephen H, Kilduff, Liam P, Bennett, Mark A, Erskine, Robert M, Raleigh, Stuart M, Collins, Malcolm, Pitsiladis, Yannis P, Heffernan, Shane M and Williams, Alun G (2022) Concussion-associated gene variant COMT rs4680 is associated with elite rugby athlete status. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. ISSN 1050-642X

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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.

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