Background: Interprofessional team-based care has been widely adopted in elite level athletic health and performance practice. Chiropractors can claim some penetration as health care service providers in high level sport. However, their position as valued members of interprofessional health care teams, especially those built around traditional medical organisational structures, is unclear. This investigation sought to explore the perceived role and value of chiropractors as service providers in elite Danish football clubs.
Methods: A comparative qualitative case study was conducted. Six Danish premiere league (Superliga) clubs were purposively sampled to compare and contrast instances where chiropractors were both present and absent from the health care team. Triangulated responses were solicited from healthcare coordinators, chiropractors and athletes within each club's organization through semi-structured individual interviews. The audio-recorded responses were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed using a framework approach.
Results: Data were collected September and November 2019. A coding framework of 14 codes and 4 code families emerged, centering around the role of chiropractors, benefits of utilizing chiropractic care and facilitators and barriers to interprofessional practice. From this framework, three themes were abstracted, these being: "Broadening horizons", "In-house preferred to take-away" and "Already covered, or even necessary?"
Conclusion: In this practice context, chiropractors fill the role of musculoskeletal health care service providers. Their perceived value stems from additional expert disciplinary knowledge, improved diagnostic triage and increased treatment flexibility. However, where not utilized, the role of a spinal health expert is questioned and when acknowledged, is limited to that of a technician/therapist. It is unclear from this investigation whether chiropractors can claim core provider status. Further exploration of this interesting context of interprofessional practice is warranted.
Keywords: Healthcare team; Interprofessional practice; Sports chiropractic; Sports medicine.