"More professional?" … The occupational practices of sports medicine clinicians working with British Olympic athletes
2010-04-28T16:19:00Z (GMT) by
This project examines the medical management of pain and injury in British Olympic sport. By drawing upon the perspectives of health-care providers, it explores key developments such as the professionalisation, formalisation and bureaucratisation of sports medicine and the consequences of such developments on doctors’ and physiotherapists’ working practices, relationships with each other and on athlete care. A questionnaire about the backgrounds (e.g. the qualifications, experience and methods of recruitment and appointment) was sent to members of the British Olympic Association’s Medical Committee and Physiotherapy Forum in November 2007 and in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 doctors and 14 physiotherapists between January and June 2008. Data indicate that attempts to professionalise sports medicine into a medical speciality have created fragmentation and resistance among the various groups involved in athlete care at this level. Whilst clinicians were committed by multi-disciplinary practice overall, data reveal qualitative differences between practitioners who have established themselves within bureaucratic organisations such as the English Institute of Sport (EIS) compared to those who provide largely voluntary medical services via National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBs). Thus, practitioners in positions of managerial authority were constrained to negotiate the underlying amateur values of numerous sports medicine staff at the same time as striving for a professional ethos. Processes of professionalisation have also impacted upon the inter-professional relations between doctors and physiotherapists and the social organisation of athlete-care. As a consequence of their work setting, clinicians were constrained to adhere to the performance-motivated demands of their athlete and coach clients over longer-term health concerns. Because of their greater orientation towards performance, physiotherapists were able to effectively "compete" with doctors in a number of practice contexts and so claim considerable professional autonomy. This project adds to the existing body of knowledge on the medical practices of sports medicine clinicians in elite level sport and demonstrates the heterogeneity within this area of practice. Furthermore, the thesis highlights the importance of understanding clinicians working practices as a consequence of their particular work setting.