They Needed a Study To Tell Them That!

by admin on June 2, 2011

Clinical research is a vitally important part of medicine. After all, if you don’t do the research you can’t find the causes of disease or come up with potential new treatments. But sometimes clinical research seems to stray a tad too close to cynical research – research for its own sake because the folks involved need to publish something, anything, to justify their career choice.

At least that’s what I thought when I came across these recent studies.

    Football faceshields that have been worn and smashed around in a game are more likely to break than brand new faceshields that have never been worn.

     Honest, that’s the finding of a new piece of, for want of a better term let’s call it research, out of Ohio State University.

    Now the scientists at OSU had some fun coming up with this and maybe that’s the real reason they did it. They used an air cannon to fire baseballs at faceshields and see      which ones stood up to the battering and which ones didn’t. Now, aside from the fact that football players are not typically assaulted with baseballs fired at a high               velocity, you have to wonder what is the point of this – other than to give a bunch of overgrown boys an excuse to fire things out of air cannons.

      The findings are blindingly obvious – which is appropriate because the study was published in the journal Optometry.

     And now we know with scientific certainty that something that has already taken a battering is less likely to survive another battering than something that has never           been battered at all. Right now it feels as if the thing that is taking the biggest battering is our                intelligence!                                                                                                                                   

Next up in the batters box, an article that screams out at you with this obvious headline: “Baby boomers driving spike in knee, hip replacements.”

That’s right. Apparently the generation that invented jogging and high-impact aerobics and made a fetish out of the exercise mantra “no pain no gain” is now reaching a point where it’s all starting to catch up with them. Their joints are wearing out and need replacing. And, being a relatively prosperous group with good jobs and even better health insurance they can afford to do just that, get a new knee or hip or ankle.

Doesn’t that seem obvious? If you have an injury and you have insurance you are going to get it taken care of. Why do we need a lengthy newspaper article and deep research to tell us that?

And speaking of staying active, apparently one of the biggest reasons why people give up sports or physical activity at a young age is because they had a lousy gym teacher.

I can understand that. In my high school our gym teacher – you know who you are Mr. Quinn – would say “OK class, today we are going to do gymnastics and learn how to go a double back flip off the vaulting horse – you boy, show us how to do it.”

I don’t remember him ever doing anything other than tell us what we should be doing. Math teachers showed us how to do math problems. Chemistry teachers showed us how to do chemistry experiments. Mr. Quinn the gym teacher, showed us how easy it was for a 14 year old boy to hurt himself doing something he had no clue how to do.

But apparently knowing that isn’t enough. We had to prove it. And so a study with the wonderfully impressive title of Remembering Instructors: Play, Pain and Pedagogy’ was published in the equally  impressive sounding journal Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise to demonstrate just that. That bad gym teachers scare students away from sports.

And guess what, that’s exactly what they found. After interviewing 24 subjects – clearly a deep and exhaustive study – the researchers say they found a strong correlation between people who didn’t like physical activity and those who had bad or aggressive gym teachers.

Fine work lads. What’s next, a study showing that people drive poorly when talking or texting on their cell phone? No need. Someone did that one too!

Interestingly enough the Los Angeles Times recently devoted a long, thoughtful article into what they call “Duh science”,  asking why researchers do studies about the obvious – such as finding that young boys pick their nose (honest) or that people who live in safe well-lit neighborhoods are more likely to walk around their streets than people who live in dark and dangerous areas.

Some of the reasons are valid – such as needing to quantify issues before being able to come up with solutions, and that it’s sometimes important to keep restating the obvious to help shape public perceptions and policy (remember how many studies came out saying smoking is bad for you before serious action was taken against tobacco companies).

But when you look at some of these studies there is no reason to state the obvious, once, twice or thrice. It’s just pointless because you are not adding to any worthwhile bank of knowledge. The only bank they are adding to is their own account.

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