Current Status of Evidence-Based Sports Medicine


      The purpose of this investigation is to determine the proportion of sports medicine studies that are labeled as Level I Evidence in 5 journals and compare the quality of surgical and nonsurgical studies using simple quality assessment tools (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials [CONSORT] and Jadad).


      By use of PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines over the prior 2 years in the top 5 (citation and impact factor based) sports medicine journals, only Level I Evidence studies were eligible for inclusion and were analyzed. All study types (therapeutic, prognostic, diagnostic, and economic) were analyzed. Study quality was assessed with the level of evidence, Jadad score, and CONSORT 2010 guidelines. Study demographic data were compared among journals and between surgical and nonsurgical studies by use of χ2, 1-way analysis of variance, and 2-sample Z tests.


      We analyzed 190 Level I Evidence studies (10% of eligible studies) (119 randomized controlled trials [RCTs]). Therapeutic, nonsurgical, single-center studies from the United States were the most common studies published. Sixty-two percent of studies reported a financial conflict of interest. The knee was the most common body part studied, and track-and-field/endurance sports were the most common sports analyzed. Significant differences (P < .05) were shown in Jadad and CONSORT scores among the journals reviewed. Overall, the Jadad and CONSORT scores were 2.71 and 77%, respectively. No differences (P > .05) were shown among journals based on the proportion of Level I studies or appropriate randomization. Significant strengths and limitations of RCTs were identified.


      This study showed that Level I Evidence and RCTs comprise 10% and 6% of contemporary sports medicine literature, respectively. Therapeutic, nonsurgical, single-center studies are the most common publications with Level I Evidence. Significant differences across sports medicine journals were found in study quality. Surgical studies appropriately described randomization, blinding, and patient enrollment significantly more than nonsurgical studies.

      Level of Evidence

      Level I, systematic review of Level I studies.
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