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Did a misquotation warp the concussion narrative?
  1. Stephen T Casper1,
  2. Adam M Finkel2
  1. 1 Humanities and Social Sciences, Clarkson University School of Arts and Sciences, Potsdam, New York, USA
  2. 2 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stephen T Casper, Humanities and Social Sciences, Clarkson University School of Arts and Sciences, Potsdam, NY 13699, USA; scasper{at}

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On 28 February 2022, the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) retracted ‘The time lords—measurement and performance in sprinting’ by McCrory, because of ‘unlawful and indefensible breach of copyright.’ McCrory was editor-in-chief of the BJSM from 2001 to 2008 and authored or coauthored approximately 200 articles, reviews and editorials in BJSM between 2000 and 2021.

Within days of the retraction, a blog post by Brown revealed many other McCrory publications requiring investigation in light of detailed evidence Brown presented that he interpreted as plagiarism or ‘text recycling’.1 McCrory himself had decried ‘redundant publication’ in a BJSM editorial titled ‘Fraud and Misconduct in Publication,’ writing that authors did it ‘in the guise of boosting their curriculum vitae’.2 We have no way of knowing whether the portions of multiauthored articles that McCrory repurposed were originally written by him or by colleagues, and (if the latter) whether these colleagues knew of the recycling.

Misquotation worse than plagiarism?

Plagiarism, however, may not be the most serious breach that could concern BJSM readers. Let us illustrate with an example from an editorial not accused of plagiarism, ‘When to retire after concussion?’3 In this 2001 editorial, McCrory fundamentally changed a quote from sports medicine pioneer Thorndike, in an egregious warping of Thorndike’s published words.3

In a 1952 New England Journal of Medicine article, Thorndike had written unequivocally that ‘(p)atients with cerebral 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 further body-contact trauma.’ (emphasis added)4

However, in his editorial, …

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The article type has been changed.

  • Contributors STC and AMF contributed equally to the development of the essay and wrote the discussion submission together.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests STC is retained by plaintiffs as a medical historian expert witness in concussion litigation pending in the USA and the UK.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.