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Call to increase statistical collaboration in sports science, sport and exercise medicine and sports physiotherapy
  1. Kristin L Sainani1,
  2. David N Borg2,
  3. Aaron R Caldwell3,
  4. Michael L Butson4,
  5. Matthew S Tenan5,
  6. Andrew J Vickers6,
  7. Andrew D Vigotsky7,
  8. John Warmenhoven8,9,
  9. Robert Nguyen10,
  10. Keith R. Lohse11,
  11. Emma J Knight12,
  12. Norma Bargary13
  1. 1 Epidemiology and Population Health, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  2. 2 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3 Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Deptartment of Health & Medical Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5 Optimum Performance Analytics Associates LLC, Apex, North Carolina, USA
  6. 6 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
  7. 7 Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Statistics, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
  8. 8 Exercise & Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  9. 9 Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  10. 10 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  11. 11 Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation; Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, University of Utah Health, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  12. 12 School of Public Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  13. 13 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kristin L Sainani, Epidemiology and Population Health, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA; kcobb{at}

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Statistical errors are common in many biomedical fields.1–5 We believe the nature and impact of these errors to be great enough in sports science and medicine to warrant special attention.6–14 Poor methodological and statistical practices have led to calls for change in other fields, such as psychology.15–18 We believe that a similar call to action is needed in sports science and medicine. Specifically, we see two pressing needs: (1) to increase collaboration between researchers and statisticians, and (2) to increase statistical training within the exercise science/medicine/physiotherapy (PT) discipline. Our call to action extends the work of those who have previously called for increased statistical collaboration in sports medicine and sports injury research.19–21

Though some academic sports science and medicine studies employ statisticians, such collaborations are an exception rather than the norm. To determine the extent of collaboration, we performed a systematic review of articles published in quartile one sports science journals in 2019 (see online supplementary file 1 for methods and online supplementary file 2 for data). The initial extraction included 8970 articles; of the 400 articles selected at random, 299 were deemed eligible and included in the review (figure 1). We found that only 13.3% (95% CI: 9.5% to 17.2%) of papers had at least one coauthor affiliated with a biostatistics, statistics, data science, data analytics, epidemiology, maths, computer science or economics department (figure 2). It should be noted that we included a broad set of methodological departments because we recognise that individuals from these fields may possess considerable statistical expertise. When we use the term ‘statistician’ in this paper, we broadly include individuals from other methods-focussed disciplines if they have extensive statistical training and experience.

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Figure 1

Flowchart of the article search and inclusion for the systematic review.

Figure 2

Percentage of …

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