Olympic medals may be presented to individuals—but no one achieves greatness alone. Behind every great sporting success is a team of coaches and support staff that includes doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, psychologists, and a range of other experts.
While Olympic greatness is the pinnacle of sporting success, anyone participating in sport depends on being able to access the medical help and advice needed. Most of the top sports stars employ their professional support staff, but many go way beyond any contractual commitment to offer the support and expertise their athletes need.
There is glamour and professional recognition for those dealing with the elite. In most sports, however, doctors and physiotherapists give their time for little or no reward, driven by their love of the sport and commitment to a club or organisation. They give up their leisure and family time, often seeking further qualifications at their own expense, and providing equipment to support the athletes. They are the doctors and physiotherapists standing at the side of the pitch on a wet Saturday in February.
Sport and exercise medicine as a specialty in its own right has developed greatly in recently years. This is thanks to the pioneering work of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, the Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine and, more recently, the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine—and also the voluntary commitment of those working behind the scenes.
The BMJ Group wants to recognise the work of those making a significant contribution to the field with a new sport and exercise medicine category in the BMJ Group Improving Health Awards 2012.
This award is not all about competitive sport and enhancing performance—the greatest public health benefits are from population physical activity. Indeed, the greatest incremental benefit to health is when those who are inactive become active even at a moderate level.
Far away from the Olympic cauldron, there are doctors and other health promotion personnel quietly encouraging people to exercise, organising green gyms, walking initiatives, exercise prescription schemes – working together to get inactive people on the move. These hidden innovators also deserve our recognition.
This award aims to recognise those sports medicine teams who make a valuable contribution to promoting physical activity, improving the care of athletes or medical services to the sporting community. We will be looking for those who had clear strategy, show measurable improvement in physical activity participation, healthcare in athletes or management of illness or injury in the sporting community. And, in particular, we are looking for those UK-based organisations and teams only who demonstrate a commitment beyond what would normally be expected in their role.
We look forward to receiving your entries…
Domnnall Macaulay is primary care editor, BMJ