The focus is on evidence, not emotion. And it’s about being as systematic as possible, relying on data, freed from “side of the field” bias, which means:
- Identifying problems
- Understanding the cause
- Seeking solutions from experts
- Ongoing evaluation
The biggest challenges are:
- How do you know if it worked?
- How do you know if it caused a set of unintended consequences that are undesired?
Trying to understand those in a complex, dynamic environment is challenging. Too many “simple” solutions offered without thought of “B"
Classic example now is the desire to limit substitution numbers. It’s easy to understand the theory for why you’d want this. It’s less obvious to consider that it *might* make things worse, or replace one issue with another, depending on what creates injury risk (fatigue vs size)
Another great example was head injury risk. Once we’d found, pretty clearly, that:
- The player most at risk is the tackler,
- The risk is higher for upright tacklers & higher contacts,
the approach to focus on law (as advised by expert coaches) was meant to carry a MESSAGE
That message would be carried by sanction, its intention being to change A (high risk) into B (low risk), or to modify A through better technique, as illustrated below. The alternative is total removal of the risky behaviour, which is what comes if this doesn’t work.
In this instance, the principle is informed by evidence, and is really simple:
- Protect the BC by avoiding their head as much as possible;
- Protect the tackler by ensuring the head is in the least risky position possible

This means appreciating the root issue - head contact
Naturally, there will be unavoidable head contact in the sport. The issue is whether it’s high risk or not? We knew where risk was higher - evidence was clear. It just wasn't always what was thought to be obvious. This was a great illustration of “intuition/emotion” vs evidence
More on this in the video, including some other explanations and examples of how the sport is trying to manage risk without creating new (or returning to old) problems:

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More from @Scienceofsport

12 Apr
Male advantage due to testosterone? The first crucial question in the debate, followed by a remarkably bad or dishonest assessment of the evidence to totally rewrite the physiology of male vs female performance. Here’s the clip, then a handful of tweets to correct the falsehoods
Veronica Ivy describes a testosterone-performance link as a “nonsense argument”, but she has to first deceptively reframe the issue to do this, & sidestep physiological reality. Note the question - Male VS Female difference, so it’s male compared to female. Not “within” M or F
Her response is that endogenous T has “zero impact on athletic performance”. Then she tries to explain this as a revolutionary breakthrough in knowledge. It’s nothing of the sort. What she does is to take evidence WITHIN male and WITHIN female, & pretend its relevant BETWEEN them
Read 16 tweets
19 Mar
Here’s another example of an extremely poor reading of a concept related to testosterone and male sports advantages. Here a scientist takes the admittedly poor research by World Athletics to conclude that T is not driving most (or all) the male advantage. This is wrong because...
...the necessary comparison here, the crux of the issue, is not whether some females WITHIN the female category have advantages, but the male vs female advantage. As such, trying to find a relationship between T & performance WITHIN men or women is pointless and irrelevant to...
....the discussion. The question is whether the T difference BETWEEN men and women (and specifically, the androgenization driven by T) explains performance differences BETWEEN men and women. And it does. Aside from this, whoever makes this error should be ashamed of their lack of
Read 10 tweets
19 Feb
Of all the arguments in this controversial area, this is the one I find most difficult to address, because the person has such a different view about what creates value in sport that we may as well be discussing a totally different subject. Worth discussing the concepts briefly:
Let’s discuss one sporting example, from the Osaka vs Williams match yesterday. I watched that, knowing that both those players had opportunities that many others, perhaps with similar potential, did not have. I often watch sports like tennis, cycling, rowing etc, and wonder how
…many others, given the same opportunities, would be capable of better performances than I’m watching? That’s not to say people are given success on a platter, but it’s undeniably true that sporting success = innate ability or potential realised through training PLUS opportunity
Read 16 tweets
5 Feb
You’ll look long and hard, and still fail, to find a debunking of something as poor and weak as this one. Simply saying the opposite thing preceded by FACT (in caps) doesn’t qualify as a debunking of anything. Except maybe intelligent insight.
Very brief responses to each. The first one is sloganeering and non-scientific. For the sporting argument, it relies on a common but flawed overlap argument because of "a range of physical characteristics” in women, which is obvious, but irrelevant
“They overlap because of a wide range” is irrelevant. Comparison should be typical M vs typical F, or elite vs elite, performance-matched vs performance-matched. Not a manipulated comparison between extremely good F and relatively mediocre M, to conclude “They’re the same”!
Read 12 tweets
24 Jan
@oldeisyoung @helenopinion @Rolnikov That’s great, she’s probably on the far right of the athleticism spectrum within the female sex. But the comparison with you is absolutely irrelevant, because, and I say this factually, you’re not an elite athlete. How does she compare to the top 10% of men? Nothing sexist here.
@oldeisyoung @helenopinion @Rolnikov So the thing for your sister is that if you got your wish, the only sport she could ever do is play it socially against (and again, I’m being blunt here) mediocre males like you. The moment she stepped on a court or track, or jumped in a pool against top 10% males, she’s nowhere
@oldeisyoung @helenopinion @Rolnikov And if that still seems sexist to you, spend some time on wiki and compare world records in track and field, swimming, weight lifting, cycling. Or even high school records. NCAA winning times. Take your pic. Check how many males are far ahead of the best females in history.
Read 7 tweets
8 Dec 20
New study on transgender & performance. The paper’s title could've been “Significant endurance & strength-endurance advantages are retained for up to 2 years despite T reduction in TW: Implications for the assumptions of fairness in current policies”. Some thoughts to follow
First, remind ourselves of the principle and why the results matter. Sports policies have allowed inclusion of TW who lower T for 12 months on the assumption that this removes the male physiological advantages sufficiently to create fairness when women’s sport is “opened” up (2/)
The obvious (though amazingly unasked) question is “Is there evidence showing that this actually works? In other words, does T suppression remove the biological advantages that necessitate a separate women’s category in sport?" This is the question the study is trying to address:
Read 20 tweets

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