Background: The general population’s understanding of musculoskeletal health is likely influenced by media reports
of the ailments of prominent athletes.
We assessed factors independently associated with debatable or potentially misleading medical statements in
mainstream sports media coverage of the ailments of professional and college athletes.
Methods: We identified and assessed 200 Internet media reports of musculoskeletal ailments of prominent athletes between
February 19th and March 26th, 2018. We recorded medical statements about mechanism, diagnosis, treatment, and
prognosis. We then classified those statements as accurate, debatable, or possibly misleading. We created a multivariable
logistic regression model to identify factors independently associated with debatable or possibly misleading statements.
Results: Forty-five percent of statements were debatable or possibly misleading. Statements about diagnosis (Odds
Ratio [OR]=0.17; P< 0.001), treatment (OR=0.33; P=0.007), or prognosis (OR=0.27; P=0.003) and statements about
shoulder and elbow ailments were more likely to be inaccurate compared to statements about mechanism and
statements about knee ailments (OR=3.3; P=0.04) respectively.
Conclusion: Coverage of sports ailments in the mainstream media are a common source of misinformation. Ailments of
prominent athletes may represent a useful opportunity to teach people about musculoskeletal health.
Level of evidence: Not applicable.