386 e-Letters

  • Mental health assessment and management in elite athletes: Comment to the IOC Sport Mental Health Assessment Tool 1 (SMHAT-1)

    Activities to improve early detection, assessment, and management of mental health symptoms and mental disorders in competitive sports has to be supported, and the basic concept of “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Sport Mental Health Assessment Tool 1 (SMHAT-1)” is excellent [1]. However, there are various aspects in the SMHAT-1, that need critical discussion according to standards and guidelines for mental disorders [e.g., 2,3].

    Mental health assessment and management

    The SMHAT-1 was developed for sports medicine physicians and other licensed/registered health professionals, e.g. psychiatrists and psychologists [1]. At step 1 (triage) the Athlete Psychological Strain Questionnaire (APSQ) assesses sport-related psychological distress. Athletes with a APSQ Score ≥ 17 are being referred to step 2 (screening) and evaluated based on six disorder-specific screening questionnaires. Taking into consideration the athlete’s history/record and the information provided, the administrator might refer the athlete to step 3a for a brief intervention and monitoring. If one or more of the screening questionnaires are positive, the athlete proceeds to step 3b. In this step a sport medicine physician and/or mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive clinical assessment, in order to identify a clinical diagnosis.

    Questionnaires are useful in early detection and assessment of psychiatric symptoms and disorders, as part of the clinical assessment und...

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  • Improving the Future of Physical Activity Self-reports – Commentary on „Physical activity self-reports: past or future?”

    The authors of the editorial „Physical activity self-reports: past or future?” take a well thought through approach to this important area. We agree that “self-reports will continue to fill important roles now and in the future”, 1(Pg.1) that a combination of PA assessment methodologies is the most informative approach, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to PA self-report. We wish to go a step further and not only argue that self-report very much is part of the PA measurement future but to improve the field of PA-self-report.

    The trend towards a more thorough confinement of PA behavior became obvious in the recently published WHO guidelines,2 which are no longer based only self-reported, but also from device-based measures of PA. The new guidelines now require new approaches to determine guideline adherence (i.e. the guidelines changed from 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous (MV)PA every day to an average of 60 minutes of MVPA per day in children and adolescents) as well as updating survey questions and sampling methods for future monitoring.2 However, changing the question wording is unlikely to address the need for PA monitoring among children who, especially at young ages, are unable to answer a potentially complex question about average behavior over the past few days, weeks, or months. The alternative of asking daily PA for an entire week may be more accurate but increases survey response frequency and time. Assessing adherence to the new WHO guid...

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  • Improvement in performance after exogenous testosterone supplementation does not prove that endogenous testosterone levels are associated with performance.

    In their May 2020 article, Effects of moderately increased testosterone concentration on physical performance in young women: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled study, Hirschberg, Elings Knutsson, Helge, Godhe, Ekblom, Bermon, and Ekblom1 attempt to apply their findings of improvement in individual performance in women given exogenous testosterone to the topic of exclusion from sport of women with higher than average levels of endogenous testosterone. This is not a valid conclusion to make from the study they performed. While this study adds to the body of literature on the effect of exogenous testosterone on performance times and efforts in cisgender women, it is not reasonable or logical to extrapolate these results to the performance times and efforts of women with higher levels of endogenous testosterone. The authors previous work was unable to demonstrate a consistent association between endogenous levels of testosterone and performance2,3. Research on international and Olympic athletes has found wide variation in endogenous testosterone in males and females with no consistent association of endogenous testosterone levels with athletic success2,4,5.
    In the discussion section of this article, that authors state “the physiological effect of testosterone is the same whether the source of testosterone is exogenous or endogenous,” citing their own narrative review as the source for that statement6. The studies they cite in that review to support their st...

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  • 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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