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Just back from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting in Baltimore. The meeting once again lived up to its pre-conference hype. To attend such a conference is an eye opener. Every young sports medicine practitioner should make the effort at least once. I am sure the Americans must have some supercomputer tucked away to deal with a meeting matrix of such complexity that requires 25 concurrent sessions running at any one time. The highlight was probably the presidential keynote address on the history of medicine in space. Using more computer technology than the Apollo 11 moon landing, this talk dazzled the audience with three simultaneous data projectors, movie animation, voice overs, and sound bites from the music of the era. I pity the person designated to give the keynote at the next meeting in St Louis. How could you possibly top that performance?
One pleasing aspect is the ever increasing non-American contingent that attends this meeting. Compared with my first ACSM conference more than 10 years ago, the change is spectacular. I can well remember in Dallas (ACSM 1992) only two sports medicine clinicians from Australia preaching to the masses of sceptical Americans. I seriously believe that they thought we were actually from Austria and were surprised that we spoke English! Now the non-American attendees number in the thousands. It is increasingly obvious that as more of the sports medicine organisations from around the world sponsor lectures and symposiums at this meeting, so the Americans are introduced to ideas and concepts that challenge their insular view of the world. This can only be to the advantage of all. It was impressive to see that the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine lecture this year was extremely well attended, and well received. Other presentations by Commonwealth, European, and Asian countries similarly served to highlight the gap that exists, particularly in clinical sports medicine, between the Americans and the rest of the world.
Apart from the programme, much of the fun of a conference such as this are the meetings and networking, which are an inevitable accompaniment of the sports medicine world. Attending four editorial board meetings, organising many other individual business and journal meetings, and catching up with friends and colleagues from all over the world can be exhausting. Once again the Friday night Commonwealth Dinner was restored to its pre-eminent position in the social programme eclipsing the formal conference dinner. If only Tom Crisp wouldn't start singing at these events!
For the first time in many meetings we actually had no professional sport being played in the conference city, with both the Orioles and the Ravens being on the road. Another attraction of the ACSM meeting is that it always falls at the time of the NBA basketball playoffs, as well as the regular baseball, and American football seasons. For a sports-mad medical audience what more could you ask? Go to a conference and see some elite sport as well. Last year in Indianapolis we had the Indiana Pacers and the NY Knicks in the NBA playoffs around the corner from the conference. The year before in Seattle we had the Mariners playing the Orioles in baseball. What a dream!
Forget Disneyworld. Forget Universal studios and Hollywood. If you get the chance, go to an ACSM meeting. Present a paper or a poster if you can. See the sights and enjoy the sport. Just do it!
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