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Involving clinicians in sports medicine and physiotherapy research: ‘design thinking’ to help bridge gaps between practice and evidence
  1. Jean-Francois Esculier1,
  2. Christian Barton2,3,
  3. Rod Whiteley4,
  4. Christopher Napier1,5
  1. 1 Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2 La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Department of Surgery, St Vincent’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4 Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  5. 5 School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jean-Francois Esculier, Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada; jean-francois.esculier{at}

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Bridging the gap between current practice and evidence is not easy in sports medicine. Research findings must be relevant to real-world clinical practice and effectively reach practitioners, who then must understand, interpret and apply them to their patients. Any change in practice requires clinically meaningful research to spark interest among clinicians. The ‘Ikea effect’—where novice builders value their own creations as highly as the work of experts1—provides some insight into a strategy which will help drive clinical research uptake. Specifically, engaging clinicians in the scientific process is key to ensuring effective translation of research to patient care.

Sports medicine research needs a ‘design thinking’ approach that prioritises the needs of the end user.2 Design thinking would have clinicians guiding researchers in designing research questions based on experience and interaction with patients to solve practice-generated problems.3 As an example, patients are unlikely to engage in a treatment plan if their beliefs and expectations are not considered in the decision-making process4; increasingly funding organisations require input from patient partners in grant applications. Similarly, clinicians are unlikely to implement, or even read, research that they find irrelevant to their practice, yet it is rare for funding bodies to require clinician partners in grant applications. However, research teams should strongly value input from clinician partners from research conceptualisation …

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  • Contributors JFE and CN proposed and drafted the initial paper. All co authors provided input to subsequent drafts of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests CB and CN serve in a volunteer capacity at BJSM.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.