Why should sport psychology practitioners attend sports medicine conferences?

Reflections on Isokinetic Medical Group Conference Football Medicine Outcomes – Are we winning? from a trainee sport and exercise psychologist.

As a sport and exercise psychology graduate and postgraduate, I didn’t think an international medical conference would be a place I’d find myself the summer after completing my MSc! Leading up to submitting my thesis (Psychosocial Factors in the Return To Sport Process of Injury), my tutor and I had discussed the Isokinetic Conference and I was encouraged to consider attending and even submit my work. I had never considered this previously, but I went away, did some research, and found myself eager to apply. I knew this would be a fantastic learning experience that I would not like to miss. I think there is a shared understanding with those in research and academia that there is simply not one factor to explain outcomes, very much like there is not just one source of support and influence in the world of football medicine, or sports medicine in general. Injury rehabilitation has often been understood as an interaction between biological, psychological and social factors (1). Taking this into consideration, I remained open-minded and believed in the significance of my psychology of sports injury research in this area.

When I received confirmation that my work had been accepted to present in a free poster communication, I felt mixed emotions. From a sport psychology perspective, I perceived this achievement as an example of how far psychology has come; being viewed and respected as a football medicine discipline within an interdisciplinary network. I initially felt slightly out of my depth, but I was optimistic about my approaching experience and incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I believe football medicine is a broad and competitive field to work in and requires individuals to push their boundaries and be open to continued professional development, in order to develop as a practitioner. Mike Davison’s recent interview shared in a BJSM blog by Anne Cornevin reinforces my point here. He suggested how development opportunities such as Isokinetics enables students to differentiate themselves – something now considered to be imperative by employers (2).

The Football Medicine Outcomes conference was a really positive and memorable experience. The variety of research was incredibly thought-provoking. I was actually surprised at the amount of content I was able to understand and give an opinion on. To present research in a way that communicates to those of different domains is a sign of a good presentation if you ask me! By learning and understanding medical terminology, procedures and outcomes, I felt that I was able to understand the athlete rehabilitation process better and not just from a psychological standpoint. In sport psychology, we appreciate the importance of context-specific understanding. It is widely accepted that, when working with an injured athlete, the injury is a central part of that context. By learning more about the different types of injuries common in football, it puts me in a better place to work as one of the cogs in the interdisciplinary team wheel. There was a great sense of satisfaction hearing the amount of psychological constructs mentioned across research and how the significance of psychology was apparent. There was opportunity for questions and debate, and it was exciting to hear about the cutting-edge, international research emerging.

Lessons learned and advice for student attendees

Prior to my presentation, I had a conversation with my tutor that helped calm my nerves. It really helped to speak openly and ask questions. I am quite a perfectionist when it comes to my academic work and so I really wanted my first conference presentation to be one I was proud of. My piece of advice would be to regulate your breathing with deep breaths and to rationalise your thoughts. This was MY research that I had conducted for the last 18 months, nobody knew it better than I did. Also, if your area of competence is not widely recognised – do something about it, bring your research to the table and get it spoken about. I left the conference that day full of energy, with a few more twitter followers and a contact card from a national Football Association. I really appreciated the feedback, genuine interest and questions from my audience, all of which left me with a huge confidence boost. I was asked for my opinion on how my research could be used within rehabilitation and this instilled me with confidence as a researcher-practitioner.

I would like to encourage neophyte practitioners in all sport science disciplines to attend conferences such as this, because in times of injury, reconditioning and rehabilitation, I think it is pivotal to be aware and understand the context your athlete is in. Injury rehabilitation is a criterion-based process and so understanding the injury type, severity as well as the psychological factors all contribute to returning to sport (3). It allows for networking and sharing perspectives and could even potentially inform your future approach to those undergoing rehabilitation. Reflective ‘take home messages’ from my experience in Barcelona would be:

1) A presentation that clearly communicates across the sport science disciplines is an effective presentation.

2) To continually improve your practice and competence as a practitioner, it is imperative to get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself into other sport science settings.

3) Psychological factors are receiving ever-increasing recognition for their role in sports injury rehabilitation. It was great to see a shift in the mental health landscape – it is no longer a taboo!

4) Embrace the opportunity to communicate with others, whether it be about your own research or theirs. Use feedback as a means to develop yourself and your research further.

Kelly Butterworth @_kelbutterworth achieved her MSc Psychology of Sport and Exercise at Leeds Beckett University, where she completed her dissertation examining psychosocial factors influencing progression through the different phases of return to sport. Currently based in Manchester, UK, she works as a Projects Officer at League Football Education – an organisation which provides education, guidance and welfare across English Football League academies. Kelly’s interests include the psychology of injury, performance lifestyle and holistic athlete development.


  • Brewer, B. W., Andersen, M. B., & Van Raalte, J. L. (2002). Psychological aspects of sport injury rehabilitation: Toward a biopsychosocial approach. In D. I. Mostofksy & L. D. Zaichkowsky (Eds.), Medical Aspects of Sport and Exercise (pp. 41-54). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
  • Cornevin, A. BJSM Blog2018. https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2018/07/24/2018-football-medicine-outcomes-conference-experience-and-auto-criticism-expands-knowledge/
  • Ardern, C. L., Glasgow, P., Schneiders, A., Witvrouw, E., Clarsen, B., Cools, A., Gojanovic, B., Griffin, S., Khan, K. M., Moksnes, H., Mutch, S. A., Phillips, N., Reurink, G., Sadler, R., Silbernagel, K. G., Thorborg, K., Wangensteen, A., Wilk, K. E., Bizzini, M. (2016). 2016 Consensus statement on return to sport from the First World Congress in Sports Physical Therapy, Bern. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(14), 853-864.

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