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Expert claims players manipulating concussion tests
ESPN Staff
October 11, 2013

Despite all the publicity over the risks linked with concussion, a leading expert on the condition claims that the CogState Sport test - the benchmark for assessing if a player has concussion - is being manipulated.

Dr Jon Patricios, a founder and director of Sports Concussion South Africa, is quoted by the Mail on Sunday as saying that while boards are taking the issue seriously, there needs to be conformity in the way tests are applied.

Former Scotland winger Rory Lamont claimed players intentionally underperformed in pre-season benchmark tests in order to pass them later in the season if they have suffered a concussion.

The newspaper also claimed that some players were told to re-take the test several times in a day to try to obtain better results even though guidelines are clear that only one test a day should be carried out.

Patricios told the newspaper that the pre-season tests were a concern. "There may be distractions or deliberate attempts by the player to score poorly. There are checks … so if you really are scoring poorly in a baseline test it will give you an invalid score and you should really repeat that. There are some checks, but there is no silver bullet."

The IRB have tried to bring in other parameters to allow better assessment but have players worked the system and doctors manipulated the system? In all honesty, probably yes," Patricios told the newspaper. "But it's not for want of the IRB trying to look after their players. We're trying to find parameters in the absence of an absolute test for diagnosing concussion."

He admitted that while the test was a good guide, it should not be seen as a black-and-white answer but as one of a number of things used to assess a player's condition. "There's still a lot of grey. Diagnosing concussion is as much art as it is concussion. I'm certainly not comfortable with anyone saying 'do the computer test and based on that score I'll make a decision'. It has to fit into an overall profile."

He said that research was ongoing but it may be a "long, long time" before there was a foolproof system in place. Even then, he warned, the "costs are going to be prohibitive".

He said that the best people to make calls were the players themselves and it was crucial they understood the issues. "We haven't been good enough at conveying [this information] to people on the front line. That is really where the challenge lies."

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