Concussion tests manipulated – Expert

Date published: October 11 2013

An expert at the forefront of rugby's concussion debate has claimed the benchmark player assessments are being manipulated.

An expert at the forefront of rugby's concussion debate has claimed the benchmark player assessments are being manipulated.

The CogState Sport tests are used as benchmarks to evaluate a player's condition after a suspected concussion.

Dr Jon Patricios, however, a founder and director of Sports Concussion South Africa, has been quoted in UK newspaper the Mail On Sunday as claiming that, while the governing bodies are treating the matter with care, a more uniform approach must be adopted regarding the way the tests are undertaken.

The news comes mere months after ex-Scotland international Rory Lamont went public with his allegations that players were “cheating concussion” by posting intentionally low scores in the benchmark examinations.

The Mail On Sunday also asserted that players whose results were unduly low were told to re-take the test in breach of the procedures that state only one assessment per day should be carried out.

“There may be distractions or deliberate attempts by the player to score poorly,” Patricios told the newspaper.

“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.

“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.”

Dr Patricios conceded that although the test did offer a solid guide for assessing concussion, it was not a blanket fix for the problem, rather one factor in a wide criteria used to determine 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.

He also believes it will be “a long, long time” before a guaranteed, reliable mechanism was in place, and admitted that “costs would be prohibitive” on that front.

Patricio felt it was most important to educate players on the dangers of concussion, but that the sport had not fulfilled this duty.

“We haven't been good enough at conveying [this information] to people on the front line. That is really where the challenge lies,” he said.