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Evidence-based sports: Are winning streaks real?

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"Over the years, EBL readers have appreciated our occasional reports on scientific evidence on popular sports. Indeed, during Cornell’s epic run for the NCAA tournament, we reviewed very interesting research on the “hot hand” in basketball, one of our most viewed posts. We’ve also written about other factors that determine a team’s success and the science of the Olympics."

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Evidence-based sports: Are winning streaks real?

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Talks at Twelve: William Block & Warren Brown

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Using Data to Make Sports Safer: Toward a National Registry of Catastrophic Youth Sports Injuries
May 9, 2013

William Block & Warren Brown
Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research

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Talks at Twelve: William Block & Warren Brown, Thursday, May 9, 2013

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Using Data to Make Sports Safer: Toward a National Registry of Catastrophic Youth Sports Injuries
William Block & Warren Brown, Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research

Thursday, May 9, 2013
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

This is a BCTR Innovative Pilot Study Grant recipient talk.

Catastrophic and near-catastrophic youth sports injuries are a significant and serious problem in the United States. Despite the widespread prevalence of severely debilitating injuries to kids in sports (such as football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, pole vaulting, gymnastics, and even cheerleading), research into the problem is hampered by a lack of high quality, nationally representative microdata that could be used to inform rule changes, improve equipment design, and implement better policy guidelines governing youth sports.

We will talk about our efforts to access and analyze administrative records from emergency department and hospital inpatient databases in Minnesota and New York State. As with most administrative records that are used for research, the primary intent of the system is not research and often data quality issues arise. A principal purpose of the records we are accessing is to satisfy requirements for payment by insurance providers. The injury coding scheme (ICD-9 CM) holds great promise yet prior research regarding data on traumatic brain injury (TBI) conducting comprehensive reviews of medical charts has shown that the true level of incidents is greater than what is shown by the administrative record codes.

This project is a joint effort between the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER), Weill Cornell Medical College, and the Mayo Clinic.


William Block serves as director of the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER), a position he has held since 2008. CISER provides a high capacity shared computing system to Cornell social scientists and medical researchers and their colleagues worldwide; an innovative restricted data service with support for multiple modes of secure access; and a data archive that is more than 30 years old.

At Cornell Block has served as a founding member of the Research Data Management Services Group (RDMSG), a member of the Library Strategic Planning Task Force, Core Director of the Cornell Population Center (CPC), and Executive Director of Cornell’s Census Research Data Center (RDC), located within CISER. Block is a co-PI on Cornell’s NSF-Census Research Network (NCRN) project aimed at the difficult curation problem associated with restricted data and metadata, and a PI on a project to gather data on catastrophic youth sports injuries in collaboration with USA Hockey. He is also engaged in research efforts to improve the ability of medical scientists to understand concussions in youth sports; a project to gather runaway slave ads from the 19th century United States; and a project to build an African demographic data archive in Francophone countries.

Block was recently re-elected President of the International Association of Social Science Information, Service, and Technology (IASSIST), and serves on the Expert Committee and the Steering Committee of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI), an international metadata specification for the social and behavioral sciences.

Prior to Cornell, Block worked for nearly 20 years in a variety of capacities on the many data infrastructure projects of the Minnesota Population Center, including IPUMS-USA, NHGIS, and IHIS.


Warren A. Brown is a Senior Research Associate at CISER since July 2011. Prior to that Dr. Brown directed Cornell University’s Program on Applied Demographics, representing New York State to the Census Bureau’s cooperative programs on population estimates and projections before his appointment as director of the Applied Demography Program at University of Georgia from June 2009 to 2011. Dr. Brown is an active member of the demography profession and frequent collaborator with and consultant to staff at the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. Brown serves as President of the Association of Public Data Users, having previously served on the Steering Committee for the Census Bureau’s State Data Center Program, and as Chair of the Population Association of America’s Committee on Applied Demography. Dr. Brown is the author of a handbook for researchers on the American Community Survey, published by the Census Bureau in May 2009. Dr. Brown has been selected by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on National Statistics to serve on an expert panel to evaluate the 2010 Census and plan for the Census in 2020.

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