Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Author: Vanessa Heggie

Athletes start the century as normal, healthy citizens, and end up as potentially unhealthy physiological 'freaks', while the general public are increasingly urged to do more exercise and play more sports. This book offers a comprehensive study, and social history, of the development of sports medicine in Britain, as practiced by British doctors and on British athletes in national and international settings. It describes how and why, in Britain, medicine applied to sport became first an area of expertise known as sports medicine, and then a formal medical specialty: Sport and Exercise Medicine. In the late nineteenth century, vigorous exercise was an acceptable, probably necessary, part of the moderate healthy lifestyle for the normal, healthy man. Consequently sports medicine was part and parcel of normal medical treatment, distinguishable only through its location or through its patient history. There was no wide-spread de facto scepticism about the value of vigorous exercise among physicians and scientists. The normality of the young male athlete is reconsidered between 1928 and 1952. At the end of the period, the athlete becomes an abnormal or supernormal human being who demands specialist medical interventions. The formation and work of British Association of Sport and (Exercise) Medicine, the Institute of Sports Medicine, the Sports Council, and the British Olympic Association's Medical Committee is discussed. The book finally discusses fitness. Normal life, war, elite competition gives us an insight into how athletic bodies are conceptualised, and how sports medicine has formed and reformed over a century.

Vanessa Heggie

The year 1928, where this chapter starts, would stand out in any sports medicine chronology. The first sports medicine books were in fact sports injury books; most made the point that sports injuries were not medical events unique to sports. Several organisational factors made research problematic in 1948, but in 1928, 1936 and 1952 physiological or epidemiological research on athletes was a prominent part of the Olympic medical programme. A great deal of British sports medicine practice, particularly in the very late 1920s and 1930s, was influenced by international developments. The greatly improved performance at the international level in virtually all sports placed demands on the sports medicine professional, and the athletic body. The chapter ends in 1952, with the formation of Britain's first sports medicine organization, the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM), founded by, among others, Adolphe Abrahams and Sir Arthur Porritt.

in A history of British sports medicine
Vanessa Heggie

This chapter opens with the first meetings of British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM), a society dedicated to the collation and provision of specialist sports medicine advice. The key issue for the chapter is boundary-setting. Firstly, sports medicine was being institutionalised in small professional organisations, which carefully policed their own boundaries. Secondly, boundaries were being drawn around the athletic body. One outstanding feature of international sports medicine at the mid-century is the introduction of gender and drug testing. A 'Medical Centre' was built in the Olympic Village, as the Medical Committee decided to 'provide treatment for minor or short-term ailments. The chapter closes in 1970 with the Sports Council initiating a study into the feasibility of using taxpayers' money to fund sports injuries clinics for the general public. The Mexican Research Project was co-sponsored by one of the newest bodies involved in sports medicine, the Sports Council.

in A history of British sports medicine
Open Access (free)
Narratives of balance and moderation at the limits of human performance
Vanessa Heggie

This chapter investigates notions of balance in the ‘natural laboratories’ of extreme physiology – specifically the high Arctic, Antarctica and high altitude in South America and the Himalaya. Physiologists and other biomedical scientists celebrated these sites as spaces in which many varieties of imbalance could be studied. The chapter concentrates on three different kinds of balance: moderation, physiological homeostasis and psychological stress responses. Through these case studies extreme environments emerge as sites where, firstly, notions of balance could be debated and reconstituted, and secondly where the white adult male’s body became established as the norm for such research. This unquestioned centralisation of a very specific kind of body as a standard measure in balance research – particularly as it was a body not indigenous to extreme environments – had consequences for the practices of both science and exploration.

in Balancing the self
Abstract only
Vanessa Heggie

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book describes how and why, in Britain, medicine applied to sport became first an area of expertise known as sports medicine, and then a formal medical specialty: Sport and Exercise Medicine. Like most other forms of medicine, sports medicine is interested in both the prevention and the cure of disease, sickness and injury. There is a rich sociological as well as historical literature on the ethics and practice of doping and enhancement. The book also describes athletic bodies as different to normal bodies that enhancement, particularly by drugs, becomes an area of negotiation for new rules and new biomedical categories of control. In a very basic form, the financial consequences of the amateur/ professional divide in British sport have necessarily had some effect on the way sports medicine is practised.

in A history of British sports medicine
Vanessa Heggie

This chapter begins with an argument that both philosophical and physiological theories constrained and informed the construction of British sports medicine. These ideas were part of the shared values and liberal education of a generation of middle-class men who, as doctors or amateur athletes, contributed to an understanding of the athletic body in the early twentieth century. Individualism, like moderation, allowed for an extremely flexible mainstream of exercise science and sporting advice. The use of exercise as a curative therapy is bound up with the histories of massage, physiotherapy, passive movement, medical gymnastics and all allied treatments such as hydrotherapy or electrotherapy. Movement and modernity were intimately related. Massage appeared at the most elite levels of sporting activity; at the first modern Olympic Games the American high jumpers appear to have sought the services of a masseur in the middle of their contest.

in A history of British sports medicine
Vanessa Heggie

The Sport for All movement and the opening of sports injuries clinics (SICs) threatened to normalise sporting activity, and through that subsume sports treatment, training and even policing within other established specialties. Rehabilitation through sport had been ongoing since Guttman's work in the 1940s, but the 1970s and 1980s saw a particular interest in the use of vigorous exercise for the rehabilitation of patients with heart disease. Certain trends in Olympic Medicine should seem familiar: specialisation and the requirement that volunteers must have some specialist knowledge or expertise, and the provision of training in sports medicine and the practicalities of working at the Games for medical volunteers. The related discussions about specialist services and experts in the 1970s draw a clear distinction between the establishment of sports medicine as a formal medical specialty and the recognition of specialists in sports medicine.

in A history of British sports medicine
Vanessa Heggie

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in this book. The book shows that some form of sports medicine was being practised in Britain in the early twentieth century. British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM) was formed in 1952, and yet the recognition of sports medicine as a formal specialty in the UK is a feature of the twenty-first century. It compares the story of sports medicine in Britain with that across the world. Histories of specialisation and professionalisation have been a staple in the History of Medicine for at least two generations, and as such are, as one reviewer has put it, 'untrendy'. At a time when sport, exercise and physical fitness are increasingly on the agenda of governments in the developed world, the question 'fit for what?' grows more important.

in A history of British sports medicine