The Angry Corrie 55: Oct-Nov 2002

Boyz in da hood: A bunch of anoraks examined

YOU REALLY have to be favourably disposed to a medical research paper that opens with a reference to Kenny from South Park. Medical "literature" (as it is so misleadingly styled) is usually buttock-clenchingly po-faced. So I was favourably disposed to a little item entitled "The danger of wearing an anorak", which our esteemed Ed uncovered for me in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine dated April this year. (Actually, it was Val Hamilton who first spotted the reference - - Ed.)

But once I'd passed the endearing first line, I found that my favourable disposition was characterised less by the "favour" and more by the "dispose". The authors (CMG Cheung, OM Durrani, MS Lim, M Ramchandani, S Banerjee and PI Murray, for theirs is the shame) are ophthalmologists, and what they've done is to measure the peripheral vision of six volunteers with their anorak hoods down, and then again with their hoods up. For a bit of variety, each volunteer underwent this little test wearing each of four different anoraks. "The hoods," we are told, "were worn identically for each volunteer." How the hell do you define "identical" when it comes to different people, with different-shaped heads, pulling that wee drawstring tight around their noses? I haven't a Scoobie, and the authors aren't letting on.

The conclusion of this little effort is that ...(wait for it) ... anorak hoods reduce your peripheral vision. There are some numbers, of course, and a two-tailed t-test or two, but that's the bottom line. Just above the bottom line, the authors are also able to state with some certainty that anorak hoods decrease your peripheral vision a lot at the top, quite a bit at the sides, and hardly at all at the bottom. (In fact, one of the anoraks seemed to cause a mild improvement in downward vision, which yanked me briefly to the edge of my seat - but the result, as they say, failed to reach statistical significance.)

And that's it. This being the JRSM and not Which?, the anonymity of the anoraks is carefully protected at all times; we read only of "Anorak 1", "Anorak 2", etc.

But what about that "danger" mentioned in the title? The authors conclude that if you're crossing the road with your hood up, you should remember to turn your head from side to side when looking for traffic.

Frankly, it's difficult to imagine why it took six authors to produce this little garnet in the diamond-field of medical research. Unless ... Hmmm. Six authors. Six volunteers. Do you suppose the authors might also own exactly four anoraks between them?

Grant Hutchison

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