Table 1

Recommendations and practical examples for the use of WhatsApp in SEM

Nature of recommendationRecommendations for use of WhatsApp in SEMPractical example
Functional Embrace functionality
WhatsApp allows files, photos and videos to be shared. Could these enhance your communication with athletes and staff?
Physiotherapist in professional cricket:
Event: Message received from upset player with setback in ACL rehabilitation.
Solution: Short voice note shared with player for reassurance rather than sending a message.
Functional Recognise limitations
Will a phone call or a face-to-face meeting will be more appropriate than an instant message? Verbal and non-verbal communication are the cornerstone of effective medical communication.
Doctor in professional football:
Event: Receives MRI scan showing significant abnormality for a player.
Solution: Due to understandable anxieties from the player relating to the scan, the Doctor arranges to meet the player in person to discuss the MRI result.
Functional Educate clearly
Using infographics and emojis on WhatsApp can help distribute key messages to athletes, leading to positive and lasting behavioural change.
Physiotherapist in a national sporting organisation:
Event: Outbreak of gastroenteritis within the national judo squad.
Solution: Shares concise information on hand hygiene strategies with the judo squad via a WhatsApp group message with emojis.
Functional Communicate rapidly
Optimise information sharing by sending group WhatsApp messages regarding changes to session planning and meeting times (rather than emails or individual phone calls).
Video analyst in professional football:
Event: Coach brings team meeting forward by 1 hour unexpectedly.
Solution: Video analyst messages the staff and players WhatsApp groups about this change to the schedule and prompts everyone to share this message.
Professional Set boundaries
Consider whether to set boundaries with your players and colleagues around when and how you will be accessible through WhatsApp.
Sports Therapist in semi-professional rugby:
Event: Change to work–life balance by undertaking additional caring responsibilities for family.
Solution: Informs coaches/players that non-emergency messages will be replied to during traditional working hours (09:00–18:00).
Professional Administer effectively
Identify your rationale for using WhatsApp groups, and consider amending the group administrators if this will streamline communication.
Doctor in professional football:
Event: Staff/player WhatsApp group used for logistics frequently goes off on irrelevant tangents.
Solution: Speaks to the head coach, and group administrators are changed so only staff can post messages.
Professional Enhance engagement
Consider using WhatsApp to overcome geographical restrictions and time constraints to facilitate athlete engagement with rehabilitation and performance.
Physiotherapist in amateur hockey:
Event: Limited face-to-face contact with injured athletes consistently led to suboptimal return to play outcomes.
Solution: Introduces WhatsApp to discuss rehabilitation programmes, monitor exercise technique and encourage athletes within the squad.
Ethicolegal Stay legal
Abide by your PSRB guidelines at all times to always use WhatsApp in an ethical and professional manner.
Doctor in professional ice hockey:
Event: Receives a video from a relative which they find funny but may be considered offensive.
Solution: They are aware of their PSRB obligations and therefore does not send it to the other staff members on the medical/coaching staff group.
Ethicolegal Be kind
IM platforms potentially provide a stage to engage in bullying. Take proactive steps to ensure conduct on WhatsApp meets the standards of your organisation’s policy on bullying and communication.
Sport Scientist in professional rugby:
Event: Notices a coach repeatedly making disparaging comments about the club physiotherapist (who is also in the WhatsApp group). The physiotherapist is affected by these comments.
Solution: Highlights this issue to their line manager, and steps are taken to address the matter and prevent its reoccurrence.
Ethicolegal Keep documenting
While WhatsApp is useful for rapid medical communication, key points should be recorded and saved in the athlete’s medical records to facilitate continuity of care.
Sports Therapist at a semi-professional football club:
Event: Exchange of WhatsApp messages with a player regarding their ankle injury.
Solution: Updates coaches on the recovery of the athlete and summarises the discussion in the athlete’s medical records.
  • IM, instant messaging; PSRB, Professional Statutory Regulation Body; SEM, sport and exercise medicine.