Friday, March 23, 2012

1 in 5

You will know, regular readers, that this blog gets profoundly irritated when statistics are used badly in the media. That irritation reaches seismic proportions when it is allegedly smart people who try and say intuitive things about stats without thinking first.

So, with the possible caveat that there may be a misquote in the ipaper, this from Sanjay Sharma, professor no less, of cardiology at St George's Hospital, Tooting, south London, who runs a screening unit for sports people. We are talking about the collapse of Fabrice Muamba in Saturday's FA Cup tie at White Hart Lane:

I am surprised it was not picked up. The medical screening these players get is extremely comprehensive. It will identify 80 per cent of conditions causing sudden death.

If 20 per cent of conditions are not found then that is one in five. A sudden collapse is a rare event (but the papers have recently given details of four or five in the last few years) and I think a professor of cardiology should rein in his surprise and instead be amazed at how lucky he has been to date.

We continue to pray for Fabrice Muamba's recovery but our optimism about the future should be tempered. An 80 per cent effective screening process is good but not great. One in five of the people who have a rare heart condition (so a small group) will be playing without knowledge of it.

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