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GOOOAAALLL! What soccer can teach health researchers
Date:12/17/2012

(Edmonton) Make no mistake, Alex Clark and Lionel Messi were not separated at birth.

Both might be stars in their own right, but Clark, associate dean of research in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta, realizes he's not about to woo stadiums of crazed soccer fans like FC Barcelona's all-time top scorer.

"It would probably take you about five seconds of watching Lionel Messi move the ball to work out who is the more talented soccer player; however, a lot of health research would see us as very similar," says Clark, noting they're both male, under 5-foot-11, have brown hair and are top performers in their fields.

"From a health perspective, the current approaches we are using to look at complex interventions would not be able to pick up the difference between Alex Clark and Lionel Messi."

And therein lies the problem, adds Clark, who used the soccer analogy in a new paper published Dec. 17 in the British Medical Journal. The paper was co-written by nursing peerand fellow soccer fanLorraine Thirsk and researchers from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia.

Though the analogy is intentionally absurd, Clark says the lessons to be learned from soccer are realand can help save lives. Whereas health research focuses on what is readily quantifiable, soccer fans and announcers appreciate the complexities that make Messi the player he is, and a host of other intangibles during a matchfrom field conditions to injuries to opponents to coaching and managing.

"Our health research needs to tap into these 'Messi intangibles' when we are evaluating treatments and interventions. A simplistic trial is not going to do that," Clark says. "That's why you end up with some studies that say a program is successful and some studies that don't. And decades of research is published like that, with contrary findings and no understanding of why."

Thirsk says many of the questions heal
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Contact: Bryan Alary
bryan.alary@ualberta.ca
780-492-0436
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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