Specific Focus: Injury Prevention


Causation vs Correlation

As we are all aware, just because two variables are correlated, does not mean that there is a causative relationship between the two variables. It can be human error though to confuse the practical implications of a causative versus a correlative relationship, and how this may apply to injury prevention. An obvious analogy may be that when ice cream sales increase, so to do deaths due to drowning. If we assume a causative relationship, then the solution to this problem would be to ban ice cream sales. If we appreciate that this is simply a correlative relationship though, and that both ice cream sales and deaths due to drowning increase as the weather improves over summer (the causative variable), then it's obvious that influencing ice cream sales will have no effect on deaths due to drowning. Translating this same analogy into an injury prevention context, research has shown that reductions in ankle dorsiflexion mobility is associated with hamstring strain injury. If there was a causative relationship between ankle mobility and hamstring injury risk, then the solution would be to do a lot of ankle mobility work to reduce this risk. What may be more likely, is that there is only a correlative relationship, with the causative variable being increases in training load that results in reduced ankle mobility (due to tighter claves perhaps?) and an increase in hamstring strain injury risk. If this is the case, then ankle mobility work may be of no value in preventing hamstring strain injuries! Hence the importance of understanding the nature of the relationship between variables prior to designing an intervention.

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