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The British Journal of Sports Medicine has introduced a series of editorials and infographics that explain the value of using appropriate methodology in sports injury research.1–6 Indeed, proper methodology is necessary for understanding why sports injuries develop, how best to prevent them and which therapeutic interventions will be most effective. Without correctly applying and interpreting statistics, subjective intuitions could lead to incorrect conclusions. In this editorial, we present seven common ‘statistical sins’ made in research and discuss how to present research findings in such a way as to help athletes, coaches and clinicians avoid drawing flawed conclusions when attempting to interpret causality in sports injury research. The sins have been adapted from an article originally published in The Conversation.7
Sin #1: trusting coincidence
Did you know that NFL teams with an animal team logo (eg, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers) have a dramatic 15% reduced risk of concussions compared with NFL teams without animal logos (eg, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers)?8 If one looks hard enough, apparently interesting associations and spurious correlations between phenomena can be found almost everywhere. However, simply because two things happen to change in parallel, or follow a similar pattern, does not mean they are causally related.
To avoid this sin, one must thoughtfully consider whether the association is likely to be causal or non-causal. Most sports injury studies simply examine non-causal associations, which are sometimes wrongly interpreted as being causal. Think of concussions and animal logos next time you read a sports injury article: are the reported relationships likely to be causally …
Contributors RON, CMC and WRL composed the first draft. All coauthors worked on revisions for major intellectual content.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.