Knee arthritis and how to spot a bad study

One of the topics I want to discuss this month is one that we’re all too familiar with. Another is one that we’re probably aware of but we probably don’t know a ton about.

Knee arthritis

We all have heard it and I’ve written about it before. “Running is bad for your knees!”

Actually, not quite.

Well, we can add another study:

But the biggest factor, they suspect, may be physical inactivity. Joints, like muscles, have a use-it-or-lose-it aspect. If you sit at a desk all day, you end up with thinner, lower-quality cartilage in your joints, and weakness in the muscles that would otherwise take some of the load off your joints. The problem, in other words, isn’t too much running; it’s not enough running.

In the end, the evidence that running is bad for your knees is greatly lacking. The evidence that running is good for your knees continues to grow.

How to spot a bad study

I wanted to post this one just because you might find yourself looking at studies at times. Maybe not as often as me (I hope – I probably spend more time than I should doing so) but I’m sure, if you see something interesting mentioned, you might check it out.

What if the study you’re reading is misleading, though? It’s not just bad science that can cause this, the bigger problem is likely bad analysis.

In this case, as Craig Payne points out, a major point of the conclusion was about injuries. Unfortunately, the study wasn’t even about injuries and, according to Payne who follows this research far more closely than I do, no other study has shown a connection between what this study was about and injuries.

In other words, the research seems to have been solid but the analysis of the results went badly off the rails by making connections that were neither a part of this study nor, through any other studies can be connected.

So be careful about what you’re reading. As with anything, think carefully about what evidence is being offered and whether the conclusions being made really match the evidence.

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