If you can get your favorite sports fans peeled away from the latest broadcast pro event ─ whether it’s the basketball playoffs, hockey championship series, golf tourneys, or the heating up baseball season ─ a conversation of sorts could be sparked by dropping numbers on them. See what kind of rise you can get by telling them their data-driven obsession with improving their own athletic performance may be built on shoddy calculation.
In the “Moneyball,” statistics’ crazy world of contemporary sports and athletic fandom, that statement could be heretical. But the numbers-driven folks at the web site “528” deserve credit for digging into a popular but dubious approach employed by researchers in sports medical science: Magnitude-based inference, aka MBI. Their article’s worth a read, especially for wonks and the numerically inclined. For those who are less so, here’s a taste of what’s at stake, as 528 reported:
At first blush, the studies look reasonable enough. Low-intensity stretching seems to reduce muscle soreness. Beta-alanine supplements may boost performance in water polo players. Isokinetic strength training could improve swing kinematics in golfers. Foam rollers can reduce muscle soreness after exercise. The problem: All of these studies shared a statistical analysis method unique to sports science. And that method is severely flawed.