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“In the fullness of time…”

The feverish activity happening all over the world to create sports medicine specialists is impressive to say the very least. In many countries, such as New Zealand, this has already happened. Principally at the behest of third part insurers rather than by governmental bodies. In the UK, a flurry of activity by the Royal Colleges to create an intercollegiate specialisation process is to be commended although for many sports physicians this may be seen as too slow.

In Australia, the abolition of the specialist recognition body has created a vacuum whereby the Australian College of Sports Physicians has been forced to wait almost two years for a new body to form in order to continue this process. Over the years, overtures in Australia to be absorbed as a sports medicine faculty within an existing Royal College have come to naught. The parallels between these processes in both the UK and Australia are quite remarkable. Similar issues in terms of political will and administrative inertia make the whole process reminiscent of Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister.

For the existing Royal Colleges both in the UK and overseas, the concept of yet another specialty developing remains a concern. Rightly or wrongly, certain specialties see sports medicine as infringing upon their territory or eroding their existing powerbase. These views exist and need to be dealt with because all to often the specialisation recognition process is subverted by individuals within such organisations who feel strongly about this issue.

For the sports physicians, the continual administrative hurdles placed in the way of this process take their toll. In Australia, where this process has been going on for over 10 years it is extremely frustrating. At the penultimate step, to have the entire process dismantled and to then be told that when the new process develops you will be “first cab off the rank” is hardly reassuring. For civil servants, administrative change is seen in decades or centuries whereas in sports medicine, we look for solutions to problems today. C'est la vie.

This process will continue and in time, the other existing specialties will acknowledge the need for sports medicine as a distinct and worthwhile discipline in its own right. In the meantime, keep your eye on the ball and take things one week at a time.