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Validating new discoveries in sports medicine: we need FAIR play beyond p values
  1. Chris Bleakley1,2,
  2. James M Smoliga2
  1. 1 School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Antrim, BT370QB, UK
  2. 2 Congdon School of Health Sciences, High Point University, High Point, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Chris Bleakley, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Antrim, UK; chrisbleakley77{at}

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There is concern that a large proportion of scientific research is based on false-positive, non-replicable conclusions.1 As most experimental research in sports medicine is based on frequentist reasoning, p values have been at the centre of knowledge claims and new discoveries within this field. But many researchers and clinicians are unable to define or accurately interpret p values. Common misconceptions are that p values represent ‘the probability that the null hypothesis is true’ or ‘the probability that the hypothesis being tested is true’.2 In effect, p values only quantify the chances of getting the observed data (on the assumption that the null hypothesis is true) and therefore cannot exclusively inform clinical decision making. This editorial presents FAIR: a four-item approach to help validate new discovery in sports medicine.

False-positive risk

False-positive risk (FPR) is ‘the probability of observing a statistically significant p-value and declaring that an effect is real, when it is not’.2 Crucially, a study’s FPR can be high, even when the corresponding p values are low. In a systematic audit of high-quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in sports physiotherapy, 18% of ‘statistically significant’ findings had a …

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  • Contributors Both authors certify that they have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content, including participation in the concept, design, analysis, writing or revision of the manuscript. CB and JMS were involved in the concept, design and writing. Both authors were involved in final submission and revision of the manuscript.

  • 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 None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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