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Keywords:

  • chiropractic;
  • sport medicine

Abstract

This article examines the integration of chiropractors into multi-disciplinary healthcare teams in the specialisation of sport medicine. Sport medicine is practised in a number of contexts in professional and amateur sport. The current analysis focuses on the highest levels of amateur sport, as exemplified by the Olympics. Data are taken from interviews with 35 health professionals, including physicians, physiotherapists, athletic therapists and chiropractors. A defining feature of sport medicine is an emphasis on performance, which is the basis for a client-centred model of practice. These two elements have provided the main grounds for the inclusion of chiropractic in sport medicine. While the common understanding that ‘athletes wanted them’ has helped to secure a position for chiropractic within the system of sport medicine professions, this position is marked by ongoing tensions with other professions over the scope and content of practice, and the nature of the patient-practitioner relationship. In the context of these tensions, chiropractors’ success in achieving acceptance on sport medicine teams is contingent on two factors: (a) reduced scope of practice in which they work primarily as manual therapists; and (b) the exemplary performance of individual practitioners who ‘fit’ into multi-disciplinary sport medicine teams.