The Philosophy of Sports Medicine

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In association with the Football Medicine Strategies Return to Play event taking place in London on the 9th-11th April, this article explains the multi-faceted nature of the international Sports Medicine industry. It outlines the effect that globalisation has had on the practice of high-performance sports medicine. Particularly, it focuses on the increased movement of industry professionals and the advent of the internet as the key drivers of change and innovation within the discipline.

Sports Medicine has become an all-encompassing term for many different sub disciplines and types of practitioners. For myself and our organisation, we believe that Sports Medicine is a multi-disciplinary way of thinking based around 3 core themes or approaches:

  1. Work as a team
  2. Communicate internationally
  3. Reach the top with your patients or athletes where you seek to achieve the Maximum Functional Recovery Possible

Across the world, Sports Medicine has developed at different paces and with different styles of leadership and personality. It is comparative to legal systems of the past centuries, and their local cultural norms and beliefs that have shaped its practice. That said, a globalisation effect has been felt more strongly in this discipline of medicine in recent years through initially the diaspora of playing talent in sport and increased global travel for competing in both professional but also amateur events (such as marathons and triathlons). Following this pattern, practitioners have also started to move internationally to practise and so a cross-pollination effect is taking place on a day by day basis. There has never been a better time for an international career in Sports Medicine. 

This internationalisation of the discipline is not constrained to physical movement of people. In fact in the past decade in particular, international governing bodies such as FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) have created international networks of clinics and scientific research centres/hubs (48 in the case of FIFA and 9 with the IOC), with the key driver of promoting international collaboration. Additionally both group support large conferences – Football Medicine Strategies Conference organised by Isokinetic Medical Group (annual) and the IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness (every 3 years), where over 1,000 sports medicine practitioners from around the world (70+ countries) come together to share their experiences, network and seek collaboration for future multi-centre studies. This explosion in the interest in the discipline has led to the need to establish a common method of communication, and in this respect English has been adopted by Sports Medicine as its base language. In support of and stimulation further cross-border sharing of information and experience, the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) has been deeply proactive in co-opting more professional member bodies across the globe (from Holland to South Africa, through to Australia and Switzerland) and extending its editorial board to embrace a wider international perspective.

Evidence based medicine works in a virtuous circle and the international explosion of interest and adoption of Sports Medicine principles has led to increasing amounts of high quality research in the field. This upward trend in quality has in turn transformed the impact factor of sports medicine journals and it has risen significantly in the past 3 years. 

Against this backdrop of movement of people and information, there are two other macro trends positively impacting the cultural development of the discipline and number of different career opportunities; television money for sport, and the growing understanding that there are significant dangers of physical inactivity with the adoption of “exercise is medicine”.

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