26 November 2012

This is what it takes to get published nowadays

For Pete's sake. This popped up in my newsfeed today, with multiple lay media citations:

Pediatric Inflatable Bouncer–Related Injuries in the United States, 1990–2010 
METHODS: Records were analyzed from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for patients ≤17 years old treated in US emergency departments (EDs) for inflatable bouncer–related injuries from 1990 to 2010. 
RESULTS: An estimated 64 657 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 32 420–96 893) children ≤17 years of age with inflatable bouncer–related injuries were treated in US EDs from 1990 to 2010. From 1995 to 2010, there was a statistically significant 15-fold increase in the number and rate of these injuries, with an average annual rate of 5.28 injuries per 100 000 US children [...] Most injuries were fractures (27.5%) and strains or sprains (27.3%), and most injuries occurred to the lower (32.9%) or upper (29.7%) extremities.  
CONCLUSIONS: The number and rate of pediatric inflatable bouncer–related injuries have increased rapidly in recent years. This increase, along with similarities to trampoline-related injuries, underscores the need for guidelines for safer bouncer usage and improvements in bouncer design to prevent these injuries among children.
Sweet Jesus on a pogo stick. So you mine a database for some trivial but catchy mechanism of injury and slap a ramshackle statisical analysis on it (somewhere between 30K-100K injuries? that confidence interval is as wide as a barn door) and presto blammo you're in Pediatrics and USA Today and on CNN solemnly intoning on the dangers of letting your kids go to Jump Planet.

Is this where we are as a society? Have we run out of actual public health concerns that we find this sort of minutia worth researching? Or are car crashes and gun accidents and drug overdoses gotten too boring to publish and report on? Or, I suspect, is the culture of academia so degenerate that the mandate of "publish or perish" overwhelms common-sense judgement in deciding whether a topic is publication-worthy? Yup, that's it. Bring on the trivia!

Next thing you know they will be warning you of the dangers of tripping over your pets. Oh, wait. They already did that study.

That meteor can't get here soon enough.

EDIT: Great minds etc etc etc

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yup, and she's trying to get into graduate school by data mining. Don't hate the player, hate the game. Yes, there are real public health concerns to be researched, but federal funding has been severely curtailed for "real" public health research. So derivative research occurs.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty harsh. Let's assume the lower bounds - 30,000 accidents per year, 8 thousand fractures, rate increasing 8x over 10 years. Isn't that worthy of a 10-page paper? Strikes me as relatively important, compared to some of the stuff that's out there.

shadowfax said...

Agree -- hate the game, not the player.

Also, the 30,000 accidents were over 20 years, not per year. So, that's 1,500 per year. At the higher modern rate we're looking at maybe 5,000 per year with the majority being trivial injuries? Not an overwhelming epidemic....

Anonymous said...

That tripping over pets story sickens me. how could we be so reckless as to overlook such a danger. something has to be done about that. there are also people. they are everywhere. dear god, you can bump into them and get a bruise. they can talk to you and pass you germs. and, help me god, they do. how can we be so blind.

but seriously, no. blame the player. the game consists of players. they make the game. if no one participates it stops. so don't play along and then say that evil someone made you. that evil someone is just another player who decided to join in.

Ross Taylor said...

1500+ per year is a huge number compared to the dozens of injuries caused by Buckyballs which are currently being put out of business by the government because of safety. http://goo.gl/cAuY9

Kels said...

This seems relevant: http://ptmoney.com/overspending-on-child-safety/

Vince DiGiulio said...

Nah, I hate the player too. As someone struggling to get into med school while spearheading my own original, unfunded, and hopefully clinically-useful electrocardiography research, it kills me to see this kind of work garnering undue attention and placement in a prominent national journal. This begins the second sentence of their discussion:

"In 2010, a total of 31 children per day were treated in US EDs for an inflatable bouncer–related injury, which equals a child every 46 minutes nationally. This epidemic increase highlights the urgency of addressing the prevention of inflatable bouncer–related injuries among children."

It's sensationalist fluff specifically designed to catch the media's attention. This kind of data-dredging has a useful place, but it isn't on the front page and the authors shouldn't pretend otherwise. I wouldn't mind if the media simply dug up the article and misapplied it on their own, but when the authors plant key phrases like "epidemic" and play right along with the coverage to further their cause I lose any respect I might have had for their data.

I've been working in emergency medicine for almost five years in a department that sees approx 40k patients per year and never seen a bouncy-house injury. Drunk driving, domestic violence, prescription medication abuse, and psychiatric illness: now those are epidemics.

Thanks for calling-out this nonsense Shadowfax.

Anonymous said...

If there is an increase it is due to the popularity of indoor bouncy house places ie pump it up, monkey Joes, ect. That said these bouncy house places are likely way safer than a playground or even the basketball courts at your local YMCA. I know I had bones broken playing ball. so the choice is to raise a fat kid or let them bust themselves up a bit.