Table 1

Three research goals and their main characteristics within workload-related sports injury research

                        Three goals of research
To describeTo predict To draw causal inference
Research objective can beTo describe how athletes perform their training or how many athletes that sustain injury over a given time spanTo predict who is at risk of injury (by comparing athlete workloads and characteristics)To understand why injury occurs
(by comparing athlete workloads and characteristics)
Researchers aim toDescribe, not to investigate associationsInvestigate an association which is non-causalInvestigate a causal association
Researchers can useAt least one variable in the analysis* At least two variables in the analysisAt least two variables in the analysis
Role of additional variables No additional variables are included in the analysis Subgroup stratification (optional)Confounders, mediators and/or effect-measure modifiers
Should the analysis be based on frameworks for sports injury occurrence?NoNoYes
Some examples of statistical techniquesRegression
Cluster analysis
Type of studyExploratory or confirmatoryExploratory or confirmatoryExploratory or confirmatory
Goal allows researchers To describe a workload-related or an injury-related variableTo predict which athletes are most vulnerable to injury. These athletes may be target population for interventions.To identify potential targets for sports injury prevention. Here, authors assess the role of causal factors which if targeted for interventions, are likely to reduce sports injury risk.
  • Classification includes, but is not limited to, decision trees, random forests, neural networks.

  • *If the aim is to describe injury development over time, two variables are needed (injury and time). Please note that the term ‘how’, which is used in relation to describing in the table, has previously been used in the context of causal inference in relation to the mechanisms underpinning sports injury occurrence in other educational pieces.20

  • IPW, inverse probability weighting; IV estimation, Instrumental variable estimation.