Sports Medicine

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 459–472 | Cite as

The Influence of Methodological Issues on the Results and Conclusions from Epidemiological Studies of Sports Injuries

Illustrative Examples
  • John H. M. Brooks
  • Colin W. FullerEmail author
Current Opinion


Data obtained from epidemiological studies of sports injuries are an essential requirement for developing injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation strategies. Although many authors have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of research methods employed in epidemiology, the potential effects that variations in research design and methods of analysis can have on study conclusions have not been clearly illustrated. This article addresses a number of methodological issues and illustrates their potential effects using examples based on injury data obtained from a single, large epidemiological study in professional rugby union. The examples demonstrate that conflicting conclusions can be reached depending on how the data are collected and analysed. The pivotal roles played by injury definition (loss-of-time, missed matches, diagnostic assessment and surgery), recurrent injury definition (clinical judgement and same injury/same location/same season), method of reporting injuries (number, proportions and incidence) and method of calculating incidence (injuries per 1000 player-hours, per 1000 athlete-exposures and per 1000 matches) are highlighted and illustrated. Other examples show that if training and match injuries are combined, the incidence of injury is more likely to reflect the incidence of training injuries but the distributions of injuries are more likely to reflect the distributions of match injuries. An example is presented that demonstrates that the identification of injuries causing the greatest concern within a sport depends on whether the assessment is based on injury incidence, severity or risk. Finally, examples are presented to show that the relationships identified between sports injuries and risk factors may be dependent on whether case-control or cohort study designs are used.

Although there are no simple solutions available to resolve the issues raised, the discussion demonstrates the importance, at least within a sport, of reaching consensus agreements on acceptable study designs and methods of data analysis in sports epidemiology.


Anterior Cruciate Ligament Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Sport Injury Rugby League Rugby Union 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rugby Football UnionTwickenhamUK
  2. 2.Centre for Sports MedicineUniversity of Nottingham, Queen’s Medical CentreNottinghamUK
  3. 3.FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC)ZurichSwitzerland

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