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A Thematic Analysis of Osteopathic Physicians' Identities and Experiences in North American Professional Sports


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Open Access J Sports Med. 2022 Sep 15;13:77-87.


Kaitlyn Blacha, Andrew Cade , Tyler Russell , Daniel Skinner


Objective: This interview-based thematic analysis examines the evolving professional identities and practices of osteopathic physicians (DOs) in North American professional sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer) to understand the extent to which DOs employ osteopathic-specific skill sets in their work with player-patients. In addition, the study sought to understand the prevalence of professional bias, interprofessional dynamics between DOs and other health professionals, and other factors such as management.

Methods: This qualitative, interview-based study is grounded in twelve semi-structured interviews with 41% of DOs (all nonsurgical, primary care sports medicine trained) working with North American professional sports teams. Interviews were transcribed and coded to identify key themes and representative quotes.

Results: Findings suggest that DOs believe their training and philosophical orientation positions them well to make important contributions to serving the medical needs of professional sports teams. At the same time, DOs are careful about championing an osteopathically-specific approach to patient care, such as evoking osteopathic principles of care or techniques such as Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. This is the case for several reasons, the most important of which is a strong drive toward collaboration and collegiality within professional sports medicine teams.

Conclusion: This study finds that in navigating the complexities of osteopathic identity, DOs working in professional sports are proud of their osteopathic orientation and report experiencing little discrimination, but also downplay what has historically distinguished their practice from that of other healthcare professionals. These findings have consequences for how scholars think about emerging professional identities in sports medicine, generally, as well as the fast-growing profession of osteopathic medicine specifically.

Publication Date: 

2022 Sep



Blacha, K., Cade, A., Russell, T., Skinner, D. (2022) 'A Thematic Analysis of Osteopathic Physicians' Identities and Experiences in North American Professional Sports ', Open Access J Sports Med. 2022 Sep 15;13:77-87.

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