Black Box Prediction Methods in Sports Medicine Deserve a Red Card for Reckless Practice: A Change of Tactics is Needed to Advance Athlete Care.
Bullock GS., Hughes T., Arundale AH., Ward P., Collins GS., Kluzek S.
There is growing interest in the role of predictive analytics in sport, where such extensive data collection provides an exciting opportunity for the development and utilisation of prediction models for medical and performance purposes. Clinical prediction models have traditionally been developed using regression-based approaches, although newer machine learning methods are becoming increasingly popular. Machine learning models are considered 'black box'. In parallel with the increase in machine learning, there is also an emergence of proprietary prediction models that have been developed by researchers with the aim of becoming commercially available. Consequently, because of the profitable nature of proprietary systems, developers are often reluctant to transparently report (or make freely available) the development and validation of their prediction algorithms; the term 'black box' also applies to these systems. The lack of transparency and unavailability of algorithms to allow implementation by others of 'black box' approaches is concerning as it prevents independent evaluation of model performance, interpretability, utility, and generalisability prior to implementation within a sports medicine and performance environment. Therefore, in this Current Opinion article, we: (1) critically examine the use of black box prediction methodology and discuss its limited applicability in sport, and (2) argue that black box methods may pose a threat to delivery and development of effective athlete care and, instead, highlight why transparency and collaboration in prediction research and product development are essential to improve the integration of prediction models into sports medicine and performance.