Accuracy of Internet Information
By Kristin Edwards, Medford Sports Injury Staff
Today many people rely on the internet as their main source of information. Most people can now easily access information about their medical conditions. However, it is important to realize that while the Internet can be a great place to obtain information, studies have shown that it is often incorrect or incomplete.
An article in PT in Motion reviews a study done on the accuracy of information on the internet about common sports injuries including the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear, Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL) tear, Rotator Cuff tear, tennis elbow, and Patellofemoral Syndrome (knee pain). This study used popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo to find the websites, which were evaluated using the “Health on the Net” code of conduct principles. “Health on the Net” is a non governmental foundation that is dedicated to making health information available on the internet standardized, reliable, and ethical. The study compared the quality of the websites as well as the source of the information that it provided.
The results of the study showed that there is a great variability in content available on the internet but that websites that claimed to be compliant with standards were of better quality. The source of the information is also a factor in the quality of the website, with non-profits having the highest quality. After that were academic sites, sites like WebMD (non-sales-oriented), newspaper articles, and personal websites. They found that the lowest quality websites, commercial sites, were two times as frequent as the next most common type of websites (academic). They also found that commercial sites tend to be incomplete and often don’t mention the risks or complications associated with the treatment they are offering. Similar studies on other common injuries like concussions and carpal tunnel have offered a similar view of the quality of websites on the internet.
While the internet will continue to be a popular source for medical information, it is important as a patient to be aware of the quality of that information. The best bet is to talk to your therapist or physician about your injury or condition. They can also recommend reliable websites and other sources of information if you want to do more research on your own.
Ahmed, Osman H., S John Sullivan, Anthony G. Schneiders, and Paul R. McCrory. “Concussion Information Online: Evaluation of Information Quality Content and Readability of Concussion-Related Websites.” Bristish Journal of Sports Medicine 46 (2012): 675-83. 18 Apr. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.
Beredjiklian, Pedro K., MD, David J. Boentka, MD, David R. Steinburg, MD, and Joseph Bernstein, MD, MS. “Evaluating the Source and Content of Orthopaedic Information on the Internet: The Case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. 82.11 (2000): 1540. Print.
Miller, Bruce S., MD, MS. “Commentary and Perspective on “Quality and Content of Internet-Based Information for Ten Common Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Diagnoses”” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. E6 92.7 (2010): 1. Print.
“Much Online Sports Injury Information Is Wrong, Study Says.” PT in Motion Feb. 2011: 44. Print.