Sideline Assessment: How an Australian Researcher Transformed What Happens Minutes After An Injury


Traditional on-field treatment of potentially concussed athletes used to include simple questions about time, person and place to assess brain injury. An Australian researcher decided to create a more specific list of questions—and the new list, now in use by health professionals around the world, bears his name.

Traditional Methods Were Not Enough

As part of the NFL Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool protocols—and once a player is removed from the field—part of what happens next has its origin in a 1995 research study in Australia.

It was the year a clinical neuropsychologist named David Maddocks set out to study concussive injuries in players of Australian Rules Football. Specifically, he and his colleagues wanted to analyze and optimize a series of questions athletes were asked immediately following a high impact event—to assess the extent of their injury.

Traditionally, athletes were asked simple questions about time, person and place.

Maddocks and his colleagues hypothesized that this kind of inquiry wasn't enough.

A New Set of Questions

So for seven years, Maddocks and his colleagues asked a new list of questions to both athletes suspected of suffering brain injuries and athletes who were not.

These new questions were designed to dig further into an athlete's ability to orient himself in time and recall elements of short-term memory:

  1. What is your name?
  2. What is your date of birth?
  3. How old are you?
  4. What year is it?
  5. What month is it?
  6. What day of the week is it?
  7. What is the date?
  8. What time of day is it—morning, afternoon or night?


  1. At which field are we?
  2. Which quarter is it?
  3. How far into the quarter is it—the first, middle or last 10 minutes?
  4. Which side scored last?
  5. Which team did we play last week?
  6. Did we win last week?


Maddocks published the results of his study called "The Assessment of Orientation Following Concussion in Athletes" in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine in 1995.

He wrote in the published report:

"Nonconcussed players and concussed players were generally able to answer (questions about orientation) correctly. … In contrast to the orientation items, all the recent memory items were more difficult for the concussed group."

Maddocks' list of questions caught on and are now known as the "Maddocks Questions."

Today, these questions are used across many contact sports around the world and at all levels of play—including on every NFL sideline.