I recently had the chance to work on a fun view point paper for the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy about ideas around analyzing data in the applied sports and rehab environments. While randomized controlled trials are considered a gold standard in medicine, the applied environment is a bit messy due to the lack of ability to control a host of factors and having the daily cadence and structure dictated by coaches and other decision-makers.
Given these constraints, practitioners often lament that, “Research deals with group analysis but I deal with N-of-1!”. Indeed, it can be challenging to sometimes see the connection between group-based research and the person standing in front of you, whose performance and health you are in charge of managing. I discussed this issue a bit back in 2018 with Aaron Coutts, Richard Pruna, and Allan McCall, in our paper Putting the ‘i’ back in team, where we laid out some approaches to handling individual-based analysis.
In this recent view point myself and a group of great collaborators (Garrett Bullock, Tom Hughes, Charles A Thigpen, Chad E Cook, and Ellen Shanley) discuss ideas around natural experiments and N-of-1 methodology as it applies to the sports and rehabilitation environments.