Statistical testing of baseline differences in sports medicine RCTs: A systematic evaluation

Ross L Peterson, Matthew Tran, Jonathan Koffel, Steven D Stovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background/Aim: The CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) statement discourages reporting statistical tests of baseline differences between groups in randomised controlled trials (RCTs). However, this practice is still common in many medical fields. Our aim was to determine the prevalence of this practice in leading sports medicine journals.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search in Medline through PubMed to identify RCTs published in the years 2005 and 2015 from 10 high-impact sports medicine journals. Two reviewers independently confirmed the trial design and reached consensus on which articles contained statistical tests of baseline differences.

Results: Our search strategy identified a total of 324 RCTs, with 85 from the year 2005 and 239 from the year 2015. Overall, 64.8% of studies (95% CI (59.6, 70.0)) reported statistical tests of baseline differences; broken down by year, this percentage was 67.1% in 2005 (95% CI (57.1, 77.1)) and 64.0% in 2015 (95% CI (57.9, 70.1)).

Conclusions: Although discouraged by the CONSORT statement, statistical testing of baseline differences remains highly prevalent in sports medicine RCTs. Statistical testing of baseline differences can mislead authors; for example, by failing to identify meaningful baseline differences in small studies. Journals that ask authors to follow the CONSORT statement guidelines should recognise that many manuscripts are ignoring the recommendation against statistical testing of baseline differences.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere000228
Pages (from-to)e000228
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • randomised controlled trial
  • sports medicine
  • statistics
  • testing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


Dive into the research topics of 'Statistical testing of baseline differences in sports medicine RCTs: A systematic evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this