‘Embarrassing blemish’ to McCrory’s reputation, but no taint on AFL work: report

An AFL investigation into the work of an associate professor who was a key advisor to the league on concussion has found that his reputation had an “embarrassing blemish”, but that it did not taint his work for the league.

Senior lawyer Bernard Quinn KC was tasked with leading the investigation after associate professor Paul McCrory resigned as chair of the Concussion in Sport Group in March as allegations of plagiarism, discovered by Retraction Watch, emerged from one of his articles in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2005. Earlier this month, another nine articles were retracted by the BJSM, and a further 38 deemed to be of concern.

McCrory had been one of the sporting world’s leading concussion consultants, and had been the lead author on four of the last five consensus statements on concussion in sport, from which the AFL designed its concussion guidelines and recovery protocols.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine has retracted 10 articles by professor Paul McCrory.

The findings of the investigation were released on Tuesday, including that “the panel found that associate professor McCrory informed the review of seven editorials which contained plagiarised text and the independent panel identified plagiarism in a further two editorials, one article and two book chapters. It found that the identified plagiarism constituted an embarrassing blemish on associate professor McCrory’s professional/academic reputation.

“However, the panel also found the identified instances of plagiarism do not affect or taint the work that associate professor McCrory had undertaken for the AFL, in particular the AFL’s guidelines on concussion, in large part because they do not involve the falsification or fabrication of relevant research.”

Quinn’s investigation included whether McCrory’s work for the league might have been in breach of the undertaking he had given to the Medical Board of Australia in May 2018, in that he would not perform neurodiagnostic procedures and/or nerve conduction studies and/or electromyography on players after that date. The panel “neither sighted nor heard evidence which suggested that associate professor McCrory had acted inconsistently with the undertaking, although it acknowledged its ability to investigate that issue was limited”.

He was under investigation by the Australian medical regulator, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, though the report said he declined to provide any information in relation to that investigation, as did AHPRA.

McCrory’s work with the AFL’s concussion committee ended in January 2021. He is also a former Collingwood club doctor.

He has in the past downplayed the link between sports concussions and neurodegenerative disease, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, as reported in an article in InSight in April, co-authored by neurophysiologist and concussion researcher professor Alan Pearce.

This development comes a day after a major development in the US – and for all collision sports – where the US National Institutes of Health confirmed a causal link between repeated traumatic brain injuries and CTE. That the world’s most prominent biomedical research agency, will adjust its stance on CTE means sports are on further notice about how they work to prevent and treat head knocks. The agency’s position is now at odds with the concussion in sport group.

McCrory has declined to comment when repeatedly contacted by The Age.

More to come

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