Is online sports medicine information off base?

Jul 26, 2010

Patients with sports injuries frequently go online seeking help in making medical decisions, but the quality of information they obtain about the most common sports medicine diagnoses varies widely, according to a recent study.

Patients with sports injuries frequently go online seeking help in making medical decisions, but the quality of information they obtain about the most common sports medicine diagnoses varies widely, according to a recent study. The authors looked at the information available on anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, rotator cuff, meniscal, and labral tears; tennis elbow; acromioclavicular joint separation; patellofemoral syndrome; and osteochondral defect. Using the most frequently used search engines, Google and Yahoo, they reviewed the top-10 search results for each diagnosis-looking for completeness, correctness, and clarity of information-and recorded the information source.

Nonprofit sites scored the highest in providing accurate information, followed by academic sites (including medical journal sites) and some non–sales-oriented commercial sites (eg, WebMD and eMedicine). Newspaper articles and personal Web sites offered the least accurate information.

The authors noted that quality controls over the health information found on the Web have not kept pace with increases in Internet use. They suggested that patients and physicians need to make sure that they are obtaining information from reputable, accurate sources and that physicians should be prepared to discuss online information about sports injuries with their patients to make sure that it is not misinterpreted. The study was published in the July issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.