Research in Athletic Therapy
While the profession of Athletic Therapy has been practiced for many years, a search of the literature would find few research studies done by Athletic Therapists. This is primarily because Athletic Therapists have been practitioners first and researchers second. With more Certified Athletic Therapists entering graduate studies, more research will be initiated. For now, research done by other health care professionals and theoretical researchers is used by Athletic Therapists to define common practices.
What is Evidence Based Practice?
Evidence Based Practice is an extension of Evidence Based Medicine which was first introduced in the 1990s primarily through the work of Dr. Archibald Leman Cochrane. Considerable Canadian influence in EBM came from medical professionals at McMaster University. Over the years, EBP has evolved from the very narrow approach of only using rigidly defined quantitative research and ignoring both theoretical and qualitative research. Today EBP considers both quantitative and qualitative research and patient and practitioner input.
“Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is a universal philosophy for decision making in health care which considers the patient’s perspective, therapist expertise and best available research evidence” (Sackett et al., 2000).
As can be seen from the definition, EBP involves more than just sound research. It involves the patient’s input and practitioner expertise. One of the primary goals of EBP is to rid health care of practices based solely on ‘the way it has always been done’, folklore, and therapy not based on research. Just because a therapeutic technique worked on one patient does not mean it will work on all patients. Thus, therapeutic practice should be based on sound research and not on anecdotes.
What are Systematic Reviews?
“A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review” (Higgins & Green, 2011).
This definition provides some insight into systematic reviews, but it does not tell the whole story. A systematic review starts with a pertinent question of treatment or therapy. For example, the question of the efficacy of continuous ultrasound on acute ankle sprains could be selected for a systematic review. Specific criteria are then defined so that a comprehensive search of the literature can be carried out. Once there has been a gathering of all research on the specific question from refereed journals, the actual research is then evaluated, usually by multiple people. Only research which has been found to be reliable, valid and methodologically sound is included in the final phase of a systematic review. A statement is then made on the efficacy of continuous ultrasound on acute ankle sprains, based on what the compilation of the best research tells us. Periodically, systematic reviews are updated as new research is developed.