Publications & Reports

What are we looking at, and how big is it?

Mark A Stoové, Mark B Andersen


Some of the most important outcomes of physical therapy treatment have to do with behaviour and quality of life. This article involves examining what it is we are measuring in physical therapy research and what those measurements mean. In looking at differences between groups (e.g. placebo-control) or strength of association between variables (e.g. correlation, regression) the practitioner/researcher must consider what are meaningful magnitudes of effects. Depending on the variable that one measures, a medium effect size (e.g. Cohen’s d=0.50) may, in the real world, be insignificant, or in the case of elite athletic performance such an effect size might be gigantic. A major problem in the sports sciences is the confusion of p values and significance testing with the results of interest, the magnitudes of effects. Also, the prevalence of possible Type II errors in the sports sciences and medicine may be quite high in light of the small sample sizes and the paucity of power analyses for non-significant results. We make an appeal for determining a priori minimal meaningful differences (or associations) to use as the primary metrics in discussing results.


  • Journal: Physical Therapy in Sport
  • Published: 01/01/2003
  • Volume: 4
  • Issue: 2
  • Pagination: 93-97