59 e-Letters

published between 2018 and 2021

  • Clear in our claims: The mental health promotion conundrum facing rugby union

    Considerable attention has focused on the risks of contact sports like rugby union (1), yet the benefits, rewards and opportunities have received less robust analysis. It is for that reason, Griffin et al.’s recent scoping review is a welcome preliminary contribution to our understanding of risk in rugby. There are, however, some concerns that deserve discussion to ensure that cursory readers are not unintentionally misguided by inaccurate claims.

    Claims on mental health and wellbeing

    In their paper, Griffin and colleagues examine the evidence for three contexts of rugby; Contact, non-contact and wheelchair. For mental health, Griffin et al. have stated:

    There is a generally positive relationship between most (emphasis added) forms of rugby union and both (emphasis added) mental health and wellbeing, especially in wheelchair rugby, though further research is required outside of the wheelchair rugby setting.

    They also assert, "Despite relatively fewer studies, the relationship between rugby union and both mental health and well-being is generally positive, especially in non-professional settings" (emphasis added).

    The data

    For the contact rugby context, Griffin et al. cite three studies (3, 4, 5). Each of which evidences elevated levels of common mental health disorders for contact rugby participants in the elite game. No evidence is presented for sevens at any level, the adult amateur community game or youth contact game....

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  • 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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  • 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

  • Improving collaboration between statisticians and sports scientists


    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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  • 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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  • Physical activity in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - be careful in genotype and troponin positive subgroup of patients.

    Correspondence to: Paweł Petkow Dimitrow, 2nd Department of Cardiology, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Jakubowskiego 2 Str., 30-688 Krakow, Poland, e-mail: dimitrow@mp.pl, tel. 0048 12 400 22 50

    In recently published paper (1) authors showed that moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity in adult population of patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) (mean age 59.5 years) was associated with progressive reduction of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Authors suggested that the impact of physical activity on this population requires further investigation. This suggestion seems to be crucial because evaluated adult patients might be predominantly genotype-negative. In paper by Canepa et al. (2) percent of patients with positive genotype for HCM dynamically decreased over time.
    Additionally, in all three groups according to the tertiles of increasing physical activity the percent of patients with co-diagnosed arterial hypertension was very high (66-67%) (1). This fact may suggest that left ventricle (LV) hypertrophy is not primary type (HCM) but secondary to hypertensive stimulation. Accordingly, univariate and multivariate analyses in Bos et al. paper (3) demonstrated echocardiographic reversed septal curvature, age at diagnosis < 45 years, maximal LVWT ≥ 20 mm, family history of HCM, and family history of SCD to be positive predictors of positive genetic test while hypertension was a negativ...

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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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  • Letter in response to: Custom insoles versus sham and GP-led usual care in patients with plantar heel pain: results of the STAP-study-a randomised controlled trial

    We read with great interest the study by Rasemberg and colleagues1 and appreciate the pragmatic research method illustrating the routine of clinicians in many countries. However, some points drew our attention and motivated this letter.
    A recent systematic review with meta-analysis2 investigated three types of insoles: customized, prefabricated, and sham. The authors included 19 trials (a total of 1,660 participants) and demonstrated that custom insoles did not reduce pain or improve function in the short-term. In the medium-term, the customized insoles were more effective than sham in reducing pain; however, with no improvements in function. In the long-term, the custom insoles did not reduce pain or improve the participants' function.
    At this point, we achieve the first question: what kind of customization did these studies address? When analyzing the studies included in this review, we noticed that customizations were based on Root's subtalar joint neutral theory, in which insoles should keep the subtalar joint aligned in a neutral position, and the internal longitudinal arch supported to optimize its height and control its descent during the mid-stance support phase. This does not seem ideal if we consider the foot mechanics and some particular movements, such as the windlass for impact absorption and propulsion of the foot3,4.
    When customizing an insole to keep both the foot and ankle in a neutral position, the clinician assumes that every...

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    The recent item by Machado et al(1) is a good reminder of the existence of hospital electronic medical records and their value for sports medicine research and practice. However, the authors’ claim that there have been very few studies that have used such data in relation to sports injuries is incorrect. The authors cite only two studies (from 1984 and 1994), despite a large international body of published work addressing hospital-treated sports injury.

    The first national reporting of sports injury patterns in Australia was based on an analysis of emergency department records published in 1998.(2) The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a national Australian health authority, has published reports on sports injury hospitalisations for over a decade, the most recent being in 2020.(3, 4) Our sports injury research team has also long demonstrated the value of routine hospital data collections to inform public policy and debate about sports injury prevention.(5) As an example, after demonstrating the excess health burden of hospital treated sports injuries, relative to that of road trauma,(6) the Victorian State Government established a taskforce especially to address injury prevention and targeting of sports medicine provision in community sport.(7)

    Our research team has published several studies addressing the number, nature and burden of sports injury over many years using routinely collected hospital data, including:
    • Analysis of hospita...

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