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Physiotherapists' lived experience of rehabilitating elite athletes

Delaney, Helen; McKenna, Jim; Phillips, Sonia


Helen Delaney

Jim McKenna

Sonia Phillips
Occasional Associate Lecturer - CHSS - SHSW


Aim: To examine the 'lived experiences' of physiotherapists while treating elite athletes. Participants: Ten practising staff in south-west England, UK. Methods: After giving informed consent, in-depth interviews were conducted and member-checked. Adopting a hermeneutical approach, data reduction was undertaken by individuals, and then rebuilt by the research team in a consensus-building process. Findings: The essence of the lived experience of treating elite athletes was one of 'working-ness'. In describing experiences of how well rehabilitation was working, physiotherapists expressed a wide range of 'knowing' about rehabilitation and about elite athletes. However, the quality of the physiotherapists experience was often a product of local politics, short time frames and interpersonal relationships. Accounts resonated with Merleau-Ponty's concepts of 'in-the-body', and Husserl's 'Being in the world'. Elite athletes were seen in terms of their: (1) 100%-ness, (2) individualized injury experience, (3) ignorant knowing, and of how (4) soccer is different. To describe their own part in the rehabilitation process, physiotherapists spoke about 'I-who' and this involved: (5) trying to keep everyone happy, (6) getting into the sport, but staying outside the game, (7) offering 'real' and 'service' treatments, and (8) Using 'goaling' to retrieve athleticism. Physiotherapists were concerned with the 'working-ness' of their practices and relationships. They used many ways of 'knowing' about their effectiveness to do what they feel is an important, but often stressful, job. These issues provide an important addition to existing templates of professional preparation of, and support for, sports specialists. © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.


Delaney, H., McKenna, J., & Phillips, S. (2002). Physiotherapists' lived experience of rehabilitating elite athletes. Physical Therapy in Sport, 3(2), 66-78.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2002
Journal Physical Therapy in Sport
Print ISSN 1466-853X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 2
Pages 66-78
Keywords physiotherapists, lived experience, rehabilitating, elite athletes
Public URL
Publisher URL