This excerpt from a recently published book on women’s sports injuries has been presented as a freestanding article by the Denver Post. This article itself excerpts a slightly longer section of the book that appeared in The Washington Post.
The article provides an excellent overview of exercises and techniques designed to reduce risk of female athletes’ knee injuries, particularly tears to the ACL. It provides valuable background about the biomechanics that may contribute to females’ higher risks compared to men.
It delivers mixed results job in making clear that the program is being studied, and that it has not been proven effective. Some related research is sketched in the background.
The presented excerpt has three flaws:
Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that this is a book excerpt. Under typical contracts with publishers, the excerpt may not be altered by the newspaper. Therefore the essential journalistic choice is to publish or not publish–and to select an excerpt that, when presented outside the context of the book, is coherent and valuable to readers.
This excerpt does indeed provide value and reads well as an independent text. But we don’t know if the book itself elsewhere provides the more skeptical, dispassionate perspectives that are missing from this publication.
When publishing an excerpt an editor does have the opportunity to add staff reporting, however, in sidebars or companion pieces. Some of the excerpt’s deficiencies–an excess of enthusiasm, a lack of skeptical perspective and a lack of takeaway–could have been ameliorated by doing so.
The article is about a set of exercises and techniques, not a commercial program with a price.
All of the "evidence" provided to support this idea is anecdotal, and the story doesn’t emphasize this. Indeed, the rarity of the injury demands that a large study would be needed to quantify any potential benefit. This isn’t mentioned in the article. The fact that few injuries have occurred may be due to multiple possibilities – chance, the intervention, the mere fact that they’re being followed, etc.
The possiblity that the training techniques and warmup exercises could increase injury risk, or could have no benefit, is not mentioned.
The article is about an ongoing study, not published results. It refers to smaller, related studies but does not suggest they are conclusive.
But the story allows the expert to repeatedly say that these techniques should be the standard warmup, without providing evidence to support that. The story states: "In the season before entering Beutler’s program, team members suffered two knee injuries, both of them meniscus tears that required surgery. They have had no significant knee injuries in the 18 months since." That is an observation, not a research finding. Only by studying this regimen compared to "usual" warmup exercises can one say whether the new alternative is better or worse. In effect, the expert is saying that current exercises are insufficient and that these are better. No evidence for benefit or harm is provided.
The article does nothing to overstate the severity or frequency of female athletes’ knee injuries, or to oversell the techniques that may reduce injury risk.
Having said that, it would have been useful to state plainly that ACL tear is less common but more serious than most sports-related knee injuries.
The excerpt quotes the researcher who is conducting a study (and is a participant in a second study), a coach of one of the teams whose players are getting the training and one player who has used the techniques under study.
It would have been useful to interview a coach and/or researcher who does not believe the techniques are useful or recommends a different approach.
The article suggests that a variety of regimens is used to reduce injury use, but it does not detail them.
Given the fact that the regimen under study itself is not described in detail, nor presented as something that has been proven effective, the article rates satisfactory under this criterion.
The article describes a warmup and practice routine that may reduce female athletes’ risk for knee injuries, particularly tears of the ACL.
But a coach or player interested in adopting a routine like this would not know where to turn for assistance.
The article makes clear that many female athletic programs are using similar techniques to reduce risk of knee injury, but that their efficacy is unknown.
This is a book excerpt, so there is no press release associated with this report.