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Stay alive! What are living systematic reviews and what are their advantages and challenges?
  1. Marinus Winters1,
  2. Robert-Jan de Vos2,
  3. Marienke van Middelkoop3,
  4. Michael Skovdal Rathleff1,4,
  5. Adam Weir2,5,6
  1. 1 Center for General Practice in Aalborg, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  2. 2 Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Department of General Practice, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4 Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  5. 5 Aspetar Sports Groin Pain Centre, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  6. 6 Sport Medicine and Exercise Clinic Haarlem (SBK), Haarlem, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marinus Winters, Center for General Practice in Aalborg, Aalborg University, 9220 Aalborg Øst, Denmark; marinuswinters{at}

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Living systematic reviews (LSRs) are ‘high-quality, up-to-date online summaries of health research that are updated as new research becomes available’.1 You may not yet be familiar with living reviews as the first ones in sports medicine were only published this year.2 3 These are ‘living’ documents where essential aspects like the search, risk of bias assessment and drawing conclusions are updated regularly. This increases their life expectancy. Our editorial discusses what LSRs are, along with the advantages and challenges.

Why we want systematic reviews (SRs) alive

SRs have changed medicine for the better and allow us to make better informed decisions with our patients. While essential, the time and resources required to perform and publish SRs are major drawbacks. By the time a review is published, the search is often at least a year old. It takes from 2.5 to 6.5 years once a randomised controlled trial (RCT) is published for it to be included in a new review.1 This is likely to apply for other areas too, such as diagnosis, prognosis and aetiology.

Having taken a long time to create, SRs then have a limited life span: new studies are …

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  • Twitter @marinuswinters, @rj_devos, @mvanmiddelkoop

  • Contributors MW and AW came up with the idea for conducting living systematic reviews in sport and exercise medicine. AW drafted the first version of the editorial. All authors provided feedback and gave important intellectual input. All authors read and consented to the content of the article.

  • 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.

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