Replication concerns in sports science

Abstract

Known methodological issues such as publication bias, questionable research practices (QRPs) and studies with underpowered designs are known to decrease the replicability of scientific findings. The presence of such issues has been widely established across different research fields, especially in psychology. Their presence raised the first concerns that the replicability of scientific findings could be low and led researchers to conduct large replication projects. These replication projects revealed that a significant portion of original studies could not be replicated, giving rise to the conceptualization of the Replication Crisis. Although previous research in the field of sports and exercise science has identified the first warning signs, such as an overwhelming proportion of significant findings, small sample sizes and lack of open science practices, their possible consequences for the replicability of our field have been overlooked. Furthermore, the presence of publication bias, QRPs and studies with underpowered designs, which are known to increase the number of false positives in a body literature, has yet to be examined. In this review we aim to explore the prevalence of these issues by conducting a z-curve analysis in applied studies published in the Journal of Sports Sciences. Overall, we have observed evidence of publication bias and studies with underpowered designs raising the possibility that a portion of findings in our field may not replicate. We discuss the consequences of the above issues on the replicability of our field and offer potential solutions to improve replicability.