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Leadership experiences of elite football team physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study
  1. Sean Carmody1,2,
  2. Gurneet Brar3,
  3. Andrew Massey4,
  4. Craig Rosenbloom5,6,7,
  5. Vincent Gouttebarge1,2,8,9,
  6. Mike Davison10,11
  1. 1Amsterdam UMC location University of Amsterdam, Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Amsterdam Collaboration on Health & Safety in Sports (ACHSS), AMC/VUmc IOC Research Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3Imperial College School of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK
  4. 4Medical Department, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Zurich, Switzerland
  5. 5Technical Directorate, The Football Association, Burton-upon-Trent, UK
  6. 6The Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  7. 7Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, London, UK
  8. 8Section Sports Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  9. 9Football Players Worldwide (FIFPRO), Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
  10. 10Isokinetic Medical Group, FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, 11 Harley Street, London, UK
  11. 11Football Research Group, Linköping, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Sean Carmody, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam AZ 1105, The Netherlands; seanocearmaide{at}


Objectives The purpose of this study was to explore the leadership experiences of elite football team physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods A pilot-study based on a cross-sectional design by means of an electronic survey was conducted. The survey relied on 25 questions divided into distinct sections including among others professional and academic experience, leadership experiences and perspectives.

Results A total of 57 physicians (91% male; mean age: 43 years) gave their electronic informed consent and completed the survey. All participants agreed that the demands of their role had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-two (92%) participants reported that they felt they were expected to take more of a leadership role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighteen (35%) reported feeling under pressure to make clinical decisions which were not in keeping with best clinical practice. Additional roles, duties and demands expected of team doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic were subdivided into communication, decision-making, logistical, and public health demands.

Conclusion The findings from this pilot study suggest that the way in which team physicians at professional football clubs operate has altered since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with greater demands placed on leadership skills including decision-making, communication and ethical stewardship. This has potential implications for sporting organisations, clinical practice and research.

  • COVID-19
  • clinical leadership
  • communication

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  • Contributors SC, GB and MD developed the survey used to collect the data for this research project. SC drafted the original manuscript, all coauthors reviewed the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.