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Getting Through to Athletes: Knowledge Translation in Sport ~ Cam Stuart

Many if not most athletes, young or old, have one focus –winning. Having spent many years as an alpine ski racer with this same mindset, I can attest to making uninformed or irrational decisions in order to achieve the end goal. Skipping warm up, poor nutrition, or sacrificing proper recovery is commonplace in all sports and activities.

Photo by chriscom. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Source: flickr

Photo by chriscom. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Source: flickr

Naivety can be an athlete’s toughest competitor. To contend this, clinicians, physios and trainers play a crucial role in penetrating the podium attitude with the knowledge and tools to be ‘game ready’.

Ok, so easy enough, right? The research side of me says yes but the athlete in me begs to differ. As an athlete, I was oblivious to the research community and its importance to my athletic longevity.  With so much literature being published every year, covering everything from protective gear to sport specific injury prevention, the sport community can benefit momentously. If, as an athlete, I knew what I have learned through my research experience, I would have spent more time on the mountain and less on the physio table.

Allow me to give you an example. With two bulged discs, I was one of many people struggling to touch my toes without pain. Two years of strong anti-inflammatory medication and spine traction treatments did little for my condition; alas, this was the accepted course of action. Then I met a particular physiotherapist with a keen interest in emerging research and the ability to communicate these ideas with his athletes.

After three months, and countless transverse abdominus exercises, I was pain free and training harder than ever. As literature is still unclear as to its benefit, I’m not saying that core stability is the best treatment for lower back pain. What I am saying is that a new approach was well accepted.

As sports medicine research is driven by athletics, so are athletics driven by sports medicine. It is up to clinicians, physiotherapists and trainers to facilitate the link between the two. This blog is a great example of dialogue amongst those providing resources for active people.

A few things to think about…

  • Identify some key resources that you can recommend. This can be anything from Clinical Sports Medicine chapters, to relevant research, to online forums and blogs…even Youtube has become an outlet for knowledge (just be careful with the source). This will start the dialogue between you and the athlete and give them the background to understand why you have recommended what you have.
  • Generally, people involved in athletics are quite motivated so don’t underestimate their desire to prevent/heal injuries. They are used to pushing their physical boundaries so try to work with them to implement changes in their training rather than mandating time off. Again, help them to understand the benefit of your expertise.
  • Search out ways to help your patients/athletes proactively. Teams or organizations are usually quite interested in providing resources but often don’t know where to look. Seminars are a great way to translate knowledge right to the benefactor.
  • Do your homework! Knowing the latest and best research is a huge asset to both you and your patients.

For further information, refer to Clinical Sports Medicine, particularly Parts A and E.

Cameron Stuart is currently in his final year of a Biomedical Engineering undergraduate degree, studying at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. After pursuing a ski racing career, culminating in 2007 with the Canadian Alpine Development Ski Team, Cam switched his focus to academics. His research interests are in the areas of injury biomechanics and orthopedic implants.

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