The Impact of Concussion, Sport, and Time in Season on Saliva Telomere Length in Healthy Athletes

Matthew Machan, Jason B. Tabor, Meng Wang, Bonnie Sutter, J. Preston Wiley, Richelle Mychasiuk, Chantel T. Debert

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To date, sport-related concussion diagnosis and management is primarily based on subjective clinical tests in the absence of validated biomarkers. A major obstacle to clinical validation and application is a lack of studies exploring potential biomarkers in non-injured populations. This cross-sectional study examined the associations between saliva telomere length (TL) and multiple confounding variables in a healthy university athlete population. One hundred eighty-three (108 male and 75 female) uninjured varsity athletes were recruited to the study and provided saliva samples at either pre- or mid-season, for TL analysis. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the associations between saliva TL and history of concussion, sport contact type, time in season (pre vs. mid-season collection), age, and sex. Results showed no significant associations between TL and history of concussion, age, or sport contact type. However, TL from samples collected mid-season were longer than those collected pre-season [β = 231.4, 95% CI (61.9, 401.0), p = 0.008], and males had longer TL than females [β = 284.8, 95% CI (111.5, 458.2), p = 0.001] when adjusting for all other variables in the model. These findings population suggest that multiple variables may influence TL. Future studies should consider these confounders when evaluating saliva TL as a plausible fluid biomarker for SRC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number816607
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Sports and Active Living
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022


  • athletes
  • fluid biomarkers
  • saliva
  • sport-related concussion
  • telomere length

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