Matt Chaney: Concussion Testing

Matt Chaney is a former football player and even self-described “juicer” during his time in the game.  He used his first hand experience to write a book about steroids in football “Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football“, and now has taken his focus on the concussion issue.  Chaney is what I like to call a “pseudo contributor” to The Concussion Blog, he has helped with finding many articles and topics on this blog.  Behind the scenes Matt is one of the most profound people to spark conversation, and has very “real” views on this issue; not to mention that Chaney is a very good journalist.  (This post is an excerpt preview for a pending analysis on Chaney’s Blog, ‘Brain Trauma Stalks Football Players, Dictates Impact Game Reform,’ which will include independent experts’ recommendations for constructive steps imperative to the sport’s survival at public schools and colleges.)

In his most recent post on his blog concerning concussions, Chaney takes a run at neruopsychological (NP) testing and the issues that he and others, including myself, have had with them.  As I told Matt and still believe; NP testing serves a vital role in the spectrum of concussions such as assessment, management and even some awareness regarding the injury.  The issue that I personally have is one of reliability and the “standard of practice”, each NP test can be done and analyzed differently.  How these tests are used is the biggest issue and Chaney says it in his style;

Current purveyors of the theory, led by Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu of the Sports Legacy Institute, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell—who funds the Nowinski nonprofit with $1 million—propose action reminiscent of the plug-in electric football game, with plastic players bumping across the vibrating surface, hooking at shoulders in ring dances.

And that’s only the beginning of hocus-pocus remedy for rampant head injury in American football.

While mysteries are daunting for the problem, like positive diagnosis of concussion, mere clinical intuition guides the varied protocols of diagnosis and judgment for when players are fit to compete again. No random clinical trial of legitimacy has been attempted.

“It is scary,” said Dr. Lester Mayers, concussion researcher of Pace University athletics, who joins experts like Dr. Bennet Omalu in sounding alarm over football’s touting concussion testing, which is parroted by media.

These critics warn football conducts dangerous “concussion management” based on incomplete research for assessing symptoms, and many brain-injured players are prematurely returning to contact, all ages, typically within days.

Chaney takes clear aim at ImPACT during the article;

“ImPACT testing is not a diagnosis tool,” said Omalu, chief medical examiner for San Joaquin County, California, and director of autopsy for the independent Brain Injury Research Institute. “It is a forensic follow-up to monitoring a patient, to evaluate the amount of damage. Using (computerized) testing in the acute phase of injury can actually make the symptoms worse.”

Doctors outside sports medicine would agree, Omalu added, and apparently many who work in athletics, given media reports of concussed youths prescribed isolation with total layoffs ranging from a month to two years.

Dustin Fink, a certified athletic trainer in Illinois, seconds Omalu. Fink discourages computerized testing until a concussed athlete is free of symptoms such as headaches, memory loss and unsteadiness. “I use the NP tests as a baseline to educate the athlete about what some signs and symptoms could become present and as a true baseline when they think that are ready to return,” said Fink, an injury authority whose popular Website,, serves as information clearinghouse.

We will follow-up with Chaney as his full article is released, feel free to comment here or at his site, he does a good job of responding.

3 thoughts on “Matt Chaney: Concussion Testing

  1. brokenbrilliant April 26, 2011 / 05:46

    Thanks for mentioning the NFL funding of the Sports Legacy Institute. It’s important to know who’s funding what. The idea that these kinds of tests are being purveyed and someone is making a tasty profit makes me even more suspect of the testing.

    Concussion by its nature is not something that lends itself well to standardized tests and treatments. Sure, there are basics you can follow — rest and paying attention to symptoms and more rest — but the idea that a single (computerized, no less) test can serve as our first line of defense against the long-term effects of concussion is, well, indefensible.

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