In Story, Doc Confirms Report on Ritalin and Beating Concussion Tests

Today’s column by Alex Marvez,’s lead National Football League writer, confirms our story earlier this week on how Dr. Joseph Maroon’s ImPACT concussion test can be manipulated by taking the drug Ritalin and by other means.

See “Players could try to beat concussion tests,” The Marvez piece draws from interviews he and former quarterback and NFL most valuable player Rich Gannon conducted on their Sirius radio show with brain imaging expert Dr. Daniel Amen and with Ronnie Barnes, the New York Giants’ vice president of medical services. The FoxSports link also embeds Marvez’s earlier video report on Dr. Amen’s work.

Marvez: “Baseline testing is the crux of the NFL’s new ‘go/no-go’ concussion policy. Any player who suffers a head injury must now pass a six- to eight-minute test that measures such elements as cognitive thinking, memory, concentration and balance. Those results are then compared to how the player scored in the preseason to determine clearance for an in-game return.” But Amen told him that a number of his player patients have said “they purposely do bad on the testing to start so if they get a concussion it doesn’t affect them.”

Amen also verifies that using Ritalin is another potential form of cheating. “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.” The doctor underscored that this practice is “not approved or a smart thing to do.”

Marvez cites my Monday article about this issue for Beyond Chron, which will be reposted in full on this blog shortly.

As I have been saying for months, the investigations of football helmet safety claims by Congress and federal regulatory agencies are incomplete and a disservice to public health unless they drill deeper into the work of the concussion researchers who have profited from academic publications promoting commercial products that they own or endorse. Dr. Maroon, a Pittsburgh Steelers neurologist, an NFL spokesman on traumatic brain injuries, and the medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment, co-authored the Neurosurgery article underpinning the hype of the Riddell company’s “Revolution” helmet. Maroon also developed and co-owns the easy-to-beat ImPACT concussion testing system, endorses at least one supplement with exaggerated claims, and endorses and owns, at minimum, an indirect equity interest in another supplement product line.

Player health and safety is at the heart of the currently stalled NFL labor talks. The time is now for Senators Tom Udall and Richard Blumenthal, among others, to direct the public to this important information.

Irv Muchnick


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