Sports Concussions and Sandbagging

What is sandbagging in concussion testing?

Sandbagging is when a test taker purposefully underperforms on a task in order to portray a lower estimate of ability or performance.

Step1 Sports Concussions And Sandbagging

Is it true that it is easy to sandbag during baseline testing?

While you may hear from time to time about an athlete who purposely attempts to perform poorly on the test, in fact, in a large majority of cases the validity indicators built into the test flag that testing invalid and the athlete is asked to repeat the test.

What does sandbagging mean for concussion testing?

Sometimes, test takers will attempt to sandbag or “underperform” on their baseline concussion test. An example of sandbagging while taking a concussion test would be if a test taker purposefully responded more slowly or purposely answered questions wrong. Athletes may try sandbagging their concussion baseline test in order to provide a lower threshold for comparison when a return to play decision is made after a head injury. This potentially could result in athletes getting cleared to return to activity prematurely.

How can sandbagging be reduced in concussion testing?

  1. Educate athletes on concussions and the importance of getting valid baseline test results.
  2. Make sure test takers fully understand the instructions, get rid of electronics and other distractions, and instruct them to look only at their own screens.
  3. Use a tool that has built in validity indicators to help detect potential sandbagging or underperformance

Get more information about how ImPACT’s validity indicators work in the 2019 Concussion Research Update: Mastering ImPACT’s Validity Indicators.