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To avoid concussion rules, some players sandbag their baseline tests


Graphic describes what happens to the brain of a football player that can cause a concussion


NFL players are given tests to determine their baseline brain functioning so that if they suffer a concussion, they can be held out until they return to their previous levels. But NFL players often don’t want to be held out after they suffer a concussion. And that may lead to some of them intentionally doing poorly on baseline tests.

Dr. Daniel Amen, who has treated players for post-concussion symptoms, told Alex Marvez of that some of his patients have admitted to fudging the initial baseline tests administered by NFL teams.

“Players are smart. They know that if they have a concussion and score badly that, ‘I’m going to be taken out. It’s going to affect my livelihood,’ ” Amen said. “I’ve had a number of players tell me they purposely do bad on the testing to start so if they get a concussion it doesn’t affect them. We need to educate them that this is a really dumb idea, that it’s the rest of their life that they’re playing with.”

In addition to sandbagging their baseline tests, players may also cheat on their post-concussion tests. Dr. Amen says taking Ritalin could give people a short-term boost to help their brain activity and help them beat a test, even if they haven’t actually completely recovered from a concussion.

“Ritalin will work,” Amen said. “It helps boost activity to the front part of the brain. In my mind, it’s not the first thing I would do to rehabilitate a concussion but it would be on the list of things to do. Clearly, it’s not approved by the NFL or a smart thing to do and try to cheat the test.”

It’s one of the fundamental problems the NFL has in protecting players from concussions: No matter how hard the league tries, there are going to be players who try their best to avoid being protected.