eLetters

60 e-Letters

published between 2017 and 2020

  • Improving collaboration between statisticians and sports scientists

    Introduction

    We welcome the call of Sainani et al.[1] for greater involvement of statisticians with researchers in sports science. However, effective collaboration requires understanding of context and in sports science research is often exploratory, concerned with small samples or predicated on the need to make practical decisions of relatively low risk. We argue for a collaborative approach that recognises the special needs of sports scientists and end-users of their research.

    Where should statistical methods be published?

    Sainani et al.[1] suggest that statistical methods should be vetted in statistics or general-interest journals before appearing in discipline-specific journals, implying that statistical methods can be evaluated independently of their context. While the mathematical core of statistics may be invariant among most disciplines, connecting these abstractions to the real world requires theoretical and practical assumptions that often depend on discipline-specific knowledge. Beyond that, there are wide philosophical divides among statisticians of frequentist and Bayesian persuasion. Similarly, we have pragmatic considerations like the degree of uncertainty we can accept when making decisions.

    Statistical methods are sometimes developed to answer practical questions to which statisticians are blind. The chemist William Gosset studied the statistics of small sample sizes because he had an interest in barley cultivation arising from...

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  • Response to Cleather et al.

    Dr. Cleather and colleagues’ state, “connecting [statistical] abstractions to the real world requires theoretical and practical assumptions that often depend on discipline-specific knowledge.” We agree: that is why our author line includes both sport and exercise scientists, as well as statisticians who have worked with sports and exercise data. Every single author has co-authored empirical work reporting sport and exercise science or medicine. Our interest in practical questions is exactly why we have carefully evaluated and drawn attention to important errors with methods such as those mentioned in the paper.

    Nowhere in our paper did we state nor imply that statisticians should be privileged in any way, nor need they be a part of every study. Our point is simply to collaborate with those who have the expertise to improve the quality of a study. Although our suggestions are far from a panacea for improving sports science and medicine, we believe they are a step in the right direction. Indeed, the improvement of designs and analysis is in no way mutually exclusive of addressing practical considerations and considering philosophically different approaches to analysis. We thank Cleather et al. for providing us with the opportunity to clarify.

    Andrew Vickers
    On behalf on the authors

  • Putting the WHO 2020 guidelines on physical activity for older people into practice

    The World Health Organisation 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior outlines the evidence-based recommendations on physical activity and its health benefits. For older people aged 65 years and older, recommendations include regular physical activity, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly, muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week, and multi-component physical activity focusing on functional balance and strength training three or more days a week. These physical activity recommendations are associated with improved physical function as well as reduced risks of falls, fall-related injuries, frailty and osteoporosis. [1]

    Specific findings relevant for policy makers are detailed in two systematic reviews supporting these guidelines. A review regarding falls prevention showed that balance and functional exercises of at least three hours per week reduced rate of falls by 42% regardless of age, risk of falls, individual versus group exercise, or whether intervention was delivered by a health professional. [2] Another review regarding osteoporosis showed that higher doses of physical activity, particularly those involving multiple exercise types or resistance exercises improved bone mineral density, particularly in the lumbar spine. [3] These findings imply that different types of physical activities should be performed by older people, at as high a dose as possible, without a need for reliance on hea...

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  • The orthopedic community does not oppose non-operative treatment of degenerative meniscal lesions

    “When taking a step back is a veritable leap forward. Reversing decades of arthroscopy for managing joint pain: five reasons that could explain declining rates of common arthroscopic surgeries.” Ardern CL, Paatela T, Mattila V, et al. Br J Sports Med 2020;54:1311-1313.

    We have read your editorial with curiosity. Meniscal preservation is a major challenge for modern orthopaedics (1, 2). And when middle-aged patients have knee pain from degenerative meniscus lesions or incipient osteoarthritis, their first treatment should be non-surgical. We are all agreed about that. It was a clear conclusion from ESSKA’s (European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy) recent consensus project based on strict and transparent methodology (3).

    Unfortunately, your editorial overlooked our exhaustive analysis and was, at times, more assertive than empirical. It seemed to assume that orthopaedic surgeons and their societies will oppose non-operative treatments, simply because they are surgeons. This animus is unhelpful: it stigmatises our community; it creates mistrust amongst our patients, and it risks more and disruptive regulations. And we have already been here, with combative publications (4,5) inviting combative replies (6,7). It was to avoid these immature polemics that ESSKA intervened.

    We would note that ESSKA’s investigation — and the subsequent Consensus Statement —involved 21 countries (3) and has been disseminated, in their mother tongue...

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  • In response to: ‘More Walk and Less Talk’: Changing gender bias in sports medicine

    We applaud our Danish colleagues(1) on their recent paper on the #sportskongres experience prior to and following the seminal paper by Bekker(2) ‘We need to talk about manels: the problem of implicit gender bias in sport and exercise medicine’. We also congratulate their ongoing efforts to continue and advance the conversation and the opportunities for women in sport and exercise medicine.

    In February 2020, the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (ACSEP) hosted our Annual Scientific Meeting in Canberra. Australia. For the first time we had gender equity in our presenters, for both the keynote (1/2) and general presentations (31/62). There were no manels and 47% (8/17) of our sessional chairs were female. This was an increased representation by women in comparison to our 2019 conference where 39% of our presenters were women.

    In a College where women comprise 25% of Fellows and 30% of Registrars, how did we achieve equal gender representation in our program? We looked for it, we planned for it, we invited women and we measured it and celebrated achieving it. The ACSEP currently has a female President and in 2020 the conference convenor was female. The conference committee had gender equity and the College has a Women in SEM committee that are responsible for the promotion of female Registrars and Fellows to leadership positions within the College and be a force for change within the overall culture of the college and the greater SEM l...

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  • Sports and exercise medicine education: extending the call to action to the UK

    We read with great interest the article by Asif et al. (1), and applaud their call to action for education and research in sports and exercise medicine in the USA. We want to extend this call to action to the UK medical education system, where a similar need for physical activity (PA) promotion and development of sports and exercise medicine is needed.

    Similar to the USA, there is poor adherence to PA guidelines in the UK population with only 66% of adults engaging in ≥150 minutes of moderate PA per week, the minimum amount found to produce health benefits (2). PA is associated with many positive health outcomes such as enhanced psychological well-being, cancer prevention and increased brain and cardiovascular health, showing it is an essential and valid way to better the health of the population (3). Furthermore, physical inactivity is associated with 16.9% of all-cause mortality in the UK, affirming the need to control and reverse the inactivity epidemic (4).
    The public view doctors as a respectable source of information, which when coupled with the regular contact they have with the community places them as an invaluable resource for PA promotion in the UK (5). However, in their article, Asif et al. (1) describe how doctors in the USA have not been adequately prepared to provide advice and counselling on PA. It is evident that this inadequacy also applies to doctors in the UK. In 2012, the mean number of hours spent teaching PA science and promotion in UK...

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  • Potentially Biased Results on Mouthguard Use and Reduction of Concussion Risk

    We read the referenced article by Chisholm et al.1 with keen interest. Concussions present a significant injury burden on the athletic community, especially among youth athletes who are more susceptible to potential long-term consequences.3,7,9 Concussion diagnosis and treatment are important, but prevention is key. Chisholm and colleagues present data on young athletes that supports a reduction in the risk of concussion with the use of a mouthguard. However, the authors admit that the current literature on mouthguards has methodological limitations and high risk of bias. The primary objective of their study was to examine the association between concussion and mouthguard use in youth ice hockey.

    We agree with the benefit players derive from wearing mouthguards to protect dentition and possibly reduce the incidence and/or severity of concussion during contact sports. However, we question the statistical methodology performed and the resultant conclusions of the manuscript. The authors utilized a nested case-control design to determine the risk of concussion with mouthguard use. Due to this design utilization, the results potentially present a high risk of bias that the authors were attempting to avoid. A nested case-control design compares incident cases nested in a cohort study with controls drawn at random from the rest of the cohort.2,6 Further, a nested case-control is useful for summarizing the trends observed in a large population when study of the e...

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  • Response to: “Potentially Biased Results on Mouthguard Use and Reduction of Concussion Risk”

    We read with interest, and concern, the letter submitted by Schilaty et al arguing bias in our analysis examining the association between concussion and mouthguard use. Schilaty et al argue that a nested case-control study was not optimal and that “Based on a relatively small cohort, a complete case-control study would have been more appropriate than a nested case-control study.” They then go on to argue that “selection criteria of the non-concussion group biased the study as a random sample was not selected from the remaining cohort (n=2,040)” eliminating “from the analysis all non-injured players who wore mouthguards.” Finally, Schilaty et al contend that our study did not “properly compare the incidence of concussion between wearers or non-wearers of mouthguards.” There are multiple concerning statements and assertions made by the authors of the letter, Schilaty et al., that we will address below.

    Shilaty et al discuss the desire to compare “incidence of concussion between wearers and non-wearers of mouthguards.” Incidence cannot truly be estimated from a case-control study, given that the number of cases and controls is fixed from the design. Rather, we are after the odds ratio based on the ratio of the odds of exposure in cases relative to controls (the odds ratio of exposure is mathematically the same as the odds ratio of being a case). Modern conceptualizations of the case-control study invoke the idea of pseudo frequencies or quasi-rates related to construc...

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  • How does BDNF affect cognitive function during exercise?

    Dear editor,
    We have read with great interest the article by Wheeler et al1 showing distinct effects of exercise with and without breaks in sitting on cognition. In this study, they also demonstrated that both activity conditions increase serum brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) levels. Although we highly appreciate the efforts of the authors to explore potential mechanisms, we suggest that the followings need to be addressed.
    BDNF is an important member of the neurotrophic factors family which enhances neuronal development and plasticity. It is synthesized as the N-glycosylated precursor (brain-derived neurotrophic factor precursor, proBDNF), and secreted into cell matrix processed by Golgi complex. Additionally, BDNF is a novel kind of myokines produced by skeletal muscle after the muscle contraction immediately. Hayashi and coworkers2 observed that both exercise and electrical muscle stimulation could increase the mRNA and protein expression of BDNF in skeletal muscle of rats. In addition, exercise could also enhance gene expression of BDNF and other neuroprotective factors in hippocampus via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1α-fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5/irisin (PGC-1α-FNDC5/irisin) pathway.3
    BDNF has been reported to play a pivotal role in the improvement of learning and memory function, which might be associated with the phosphorylation of tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) in cognitive-...

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  • Still in doubt about the efficacy of Cognitive Functional Therapy for chronic nonspecific low back pain. Letter to the editor concerning the trial by O’Keeffe et al. 2019.

    We congratulate O’Keeffe et al. [1] for their research on the comparative efficacy of Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT) and physiotherapist-delivered group-based exercise and education for individuals with chronic low back pain (CLBP). Their study shows that “CFT can reduce disability, but not pain, at 6 months compared with the group-based exercise and education intervention”. The CFT approach is very promising and has caught the attention and interest of a number of clinicians worldwide in the management of non‐specific disabling CLBP. The study by O’Keeffe et al. [1] has methodological strengths compared to a previous clinical trial by Vibe Fersum et al. [2,3] such as a higher sample size which means it is less vulnerable to type-II error. Nonetheless, some shortcomings threaten substantially the risk of bias and type I error that are worthy of further discussion.

    The first is the choice of three physiotherapists for delivering both interventions in this trial. This aspect was considered by O’Keeffe et al. [1] as a strength of the study because it arguably minimized differences in clinicians’ expertise and communication style. Notwithstanding, this fact could also have decreased the treatment effect on the control group. It is important to remember that the trial was performed by the research group that not only developed CFT but also has trained the physiotherapists on such an approach, and thus the enthusiasm and motivation to apply the intervention on the CFT...

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