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Sports medicine is a rapidly expanding and developing specialty in the United Kingdom, but there is, currently, no defined training programme or higher career specialist qualification for those wishing to work in this field. A Medline search using keywords “sports medicine”, “specialist”, “training”, and “qualities” found no literature to help define this specialism. The aim of the study was to help define the role of the sports medicine specialist. The specific objective was to seek consensus among those practitioners already working in the field on those qualities considered desirable or essential in a sports medicine specialist.
The study used a modified Delphi technique to seek the views of all 13 doctors in Northern Ireland who possess the basic qualification of a Diploma in Sports Medicine and who work in a variety of clinical settings. In the first round, we invited these doctors to record all those qualities they considered important for a sports medicine specialist under 11 headings (table 1) identified from similar Delphi studies.1–13 We included examples of these studies to help illustrate how this technique had been applied in defining other professional roles and also relevant consensus statements.14,15
In round two, the list of all attributes was circulated to the 13 panel members and each was asked to evaluate their importance from “strongly agree”, “agree”, “neither”, “disagree” to “strongly disagree”. Responses were collated and analysed using SPSS software with numerical values being allocated to each response (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree).
Nine of 13 panellists (69%) completed round one and provided a total of 851 responses. These results were collated and, after elimination of duplicate responses, 329 suggested attributes remained. Eleven of 13 panellists (85%) completed round two. The 18 responses attracting the highest mean scores after round two are shown in table 2.
This consensus study highlights areas of ethical, medicolegal, and emergency medicine as being those most desirable or essential in a sports medicine specialist. A number of these statements could equally apply to any medical practitioner. We have only identified the top 18 qualities. It is interesting to note that, of the 311 other qualities identified, the lowest scores of 2.88 and 3 were received by the statements “has a formal attachment to a team or sport” and “experience as a player at different levels” respectively. Furthermore no quality was rated 5 by all respondents.
This is a small geographically isolated study but it uses a recognised method to seek consensus among those who have shown their commitment by undertaking a higher specialist qualification. A further, United Kingdom wide study is in preparation.
We would like to acknowledge the invaluable help received from the participants in this pilot study. They are M Webb, D McCreary, P McCormack, D Irwin, T Forde, B Fair, M Cunningham, M Cullen, I Corry, E Abernethy, M Hampton.