The rapid rise of the Internet and technology has made information easily accessible. Many people – doctors, journalists, and students – have access to information provided by people hundreds of miles away. Even sports health specialists benefit from having access to sports health literature. However, despite how easy it is to find research, a study conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds that most practitioners base their treatment of athletes on personal experience rather than observational evidence.
There are many reasons why most rely on empirical evidence. For one, the literature base of sports and exercise medicine is underdeveloped. For example, the treatment of some of the most common injuries – patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, and Achilles tendinopathy – have significantly less research compared to other clinical fields, such as cardiology. Without enough information, sports health practitioners are more likely to rely on their own knowledge for treatment.
This dependence can lead to a lack of awareness for evidence-based treatment. Most are unaware of sports health literature and only 42 percent of practitioners are aware that their treatment model is supported by evidence. Oddly enough, those who did use evidence-supported treatment were unaware of the literature that existed.
Those who are aware of available literature are skeptical about the validity of the results. Even with the current literature, there is no general consensus on the “best” way to treat a specific injury. The lack of confidence may lead to ineffective, even harmful, treatment of patients. This is further exacerbated by the amount of time it takes to constantly update their knowledge of the latest observations offered by doctors compared to relying on personal experience. It is easier for practitioners to use their own experiences rather than research other treatment models which may not be effective.
The lack of a well-developed literature base and a lack of awareness and confidence for current literature results in most practitioners to rely on personal experience to treat athletes. Although personal experience is important, it is also crucial to mix individual expertise with evidence-supported treatment models to optimize treatment for patients. Expanding the current literature base is important for finding the best treatment for injuries and ensuring quick recovery and return to play. Injury documentation and management provides data for researchers and doctors to analyze and to find new ways to treat patients, which can provide a safer environment and better treatments for injured athletes.