A photo of sports doctors treating a soccer player for a concussion on the field.

Expert documents on concussions withdrawn

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM)a BMJ publication, withdraws nine other non-research papers written by former editor and concussion researcher Paul McCrory, MBBS, PhD, of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia.

Expressions of concern will be placed on 38 other articles published in BMJ reviews of which McCrory is the sole author, noted Helen Macdonald, MBBS, MSc, of BMJ Publishing, and Jonathan Drezner, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and co-authors of bjsm.

The decision follows an internal investigation by BMJthe Research Integrity Team and Drezner, who is the current editor of the bjsm. This was prompted by allegations of publication misconduct made by researcher Nick Brown, PhD.

McCrory edited the bjsm from 2001 to 2008, during which time he published at least 164 articles in BMJ journals.

Earlier this year, an article by McCrory was taken down in the bjsmmotivated by concerns that it shared similarities with one that another author had written for Physics World.

Plagiarism may not be the most serious offense that could concern bjsm readers, observed Stephen Casper, PhD, of Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, and Adam Finkel, ScD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in an accompanying editorial.

Misquotes can be worse, they noted. In a 2001 article, “McCrory fundamentally changed a quote from sports medicine pioneer Thorndike [Augustus Thorndike, MD]in a gross misrepresentation of Thorndike’s published words,” Casper and Finkel wrote.

“In a 1952 New England Journal of Medicine article, Thorndike had written unequivocally that ‘(p)patients with a concussion that has recurred more than three times or with more than momentary loss of consciousness at any one time should not be exposed to other bodily contact trauma,'” they noted.

“However, in his editorial, McCrory purported to ‘quote’ Thorndike’s 1952 paper as having advised that after ‘three concussions, which involved loss of consciousness for any period of time, the athlete should be removed from the sports of contact for the remainder of the season,'” changing and weakening Thorndike’s recommendation in two different ways, Casper and Finkel pointed out.

Over the course of his career, McCrory has led several iterations of consensus statements on concussions in sport, which have been published in bjsm.

“While these statements would have been informed by systematic reviews (some of which were part of or led by McCrory) and included many co-authors who also contributed to the consensus guidelines, readers may wonder how McCrory’s misquotation or the possible mindset she reveals about her role, especially when considered with McCrory’s plagiarism and the possibility of other misrepresentations, may have altered the interpretation of concussion science and so shaped the content of consensus statements about concussions,” Casper and Finkel wrote.

Questions about McCrory’s actions go beyond published work, noted Chris Nowinski, PhD, of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston.

“We are only beginning to understand the implications of Paul McCrory’s serial scientific misconduct,” Nowinski said. MedPage Today.

“In my mind, the serial plagiarism and duplicate postings are overshadowed by the fact that he repeatedly misrepresented the work of others in public scientific forums, both with respect to historical guidelines on concussion care in a medical journal and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [CTE] research in a public lecture,” Nowinski observed.

“That’s what we know he was prepared to distort publicly. Who knows what he said in private meetings, but I suspect it played a part in world sport’s past and current hostile resistance to conservative care of concussions and in the acceptance that CTE is caused by contact sports,” he added.

The nine retractions all relate to opinion pieces, commentaries and editorials of which McCrory is the sole author. They include five cases of plagiarism and three of redundant publication. The other retracted article is the one in which McCrory quotes Thorndike.

After a review of the 2016 Concussion Consensus Statement, the BMJ The Research Integrity Team concluded that they had “no concerns about plagiarism” and felt that “the question of the extent of McCrory’s contribution and influence over the five versions of the consensus statement are within the purview of the Scientific Committee appointed by the Concussion in Sport Group (CISG).”

After allegations of plagiarism first surfaced, McCrory resigned from his CISG leadership position and resigned from his role as a member of the scientific committee of the International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport. , noted Macdonald and his co-authors.

“The scientific record is built on trust, and BMJ confidence in McCrory’s work – particularly the articles he published as sole author – is shattered,” they wrote.

“We will investigate any new allegations we receive regarding McCrory’s work in BMJ journals,” they added. “We ask other publishers and his institution to do the same.”

  • Judy George covers neurology and neuroscience news for MedPage Today, writing about brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, MS, rare diseases, epilepsy, autism, headaches , strokes, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, concussions, CTE, sleep, pain, etc. Follow


Macdonald and his co-authors are employees of BMJ. Drezner is the editor of British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Casper is being retained by the plaintiffs as a medical historian expert witness in ongoing concussion litigation in the US and UK. Finkel reported no disclosures.

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