Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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The Power of Negative Studies

Ralph A. Manchester
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 24 Number 1: Page 1 (March 2009)

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Abstract: Clinical research, like aging, is not for sissies. As everyone who has tried to do studies involving real, free-living human beings knows, it is an endless quest to get just one simple conclusion out of a morass of data that has been collected despite countless obstacles and complications. Whenever a study actually produces clinically significant results, it should be viewed with respect and wonder. Some studies, no matter how well designed and diligently executed, do not yield the results that were hypothesized at the outset--they are sometimes referred to as ¿negative¿ studies. Such is the case with the paper by Dr. Brandfonbrener in this issue of the journal, according to her own discussion of the results. Despite collecting data on hundreds of freshman music students from four consecutive entering classes and demonstrating that a large majority had already suffered a performance-related injury, she was unable to find any risk factors that distinguished between those who had had performance-related pain and those who had not. While the simple finding that a majority of entering freshmen have already experienced playing-related pain is important in and of itself, it is worth looking at this study in greater depth in order to understand why no risk factors could be identified and what the next steps might be.

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