How (not) to interpret a non-causal association in sports injury science

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Mette Hjerrild, Department of Public Health, Section of Sport Science, Aarhus University,
  • Solvej Videbaek
  • Daniel Theisen, Sports Medicine Research Laboratory, Luxembourg Institute of Health, 76 rue d'Eich, L-1460, Luxembourg. Electronic address: daniel.theisen@lih.lu., Luxembourg
  • Laurent Malisoux, Sports Medicine Research Laboratory, Luxembourg Institute of Health, 76 rue d'Eich, L-1460, Luxembourg. Electronic address: laurent.malisoux@lih.lu.
  • ,
  • Rasmus Oestergaard Nielsen

OBJECTIVE: To discuss the interpretability of non-causal associations to sports injury development exemplified via the relationship between navicular drop (ND) and running-related injury (RRI) in novice runners using neutral shoes.

DESIGN: 1-year prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Denmark.

PARTICIPANTS: 926 novice runners, representing 1852 feet, were included.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: The outcome was "a musculoskeletal complaint of the lower extremity or back caused by running, which restricted the amount of running for at least a week".

RESULTS: Fewer feet with small ND than those feet with a reference ND sustained injuries at 50 (risk difference (RD) = -4.1% [95%CI = -7.9%;-0.4%]) and 100 km (RD = -5.3% [95%CI = -9.9%;-0.7%]). Similarly, fewer feet with a large ND sustained injuries than the feet with a reference drop at 250 (RD = -7.6% [95%CI = -14.9%;-0.3%]) and 500 km (RD = -9.8% [95%CI = -19.1%;-0.4%]).

CONCLUSION: Non-causal associations can help to identify sub-groups of athletes at an increased or decreased risk of sports injury. Based on the current results, those with a small or large navicular drop sustain fewer injuries than those with a reference drop. Importantly, navicular drop does not cause RRIs, but influences the relationship between training load and RRI. This illustrates that non-causal associations are unsuitable to respond to the question: Why do sports injury develop?

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy in Sport
Volume32
Pages (from-to)121-125
Number of pages5
ISSN1466-853X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

    Research areas

  • Athletic Injuries/etiology, Causality, Female, Foot/anatomy & histology, Humans, Male, Prospective Studies, Running/injuries, Shoes, Navicular drop

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