The Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine

The origin of The Institute (until May 2005 The ISM) was an initiative in 1958 by the late Mr Peter Sebastian CBE, a lawyer, inspired by his concern that there was a lack of specialised training and standards for those doctors involved in the care of participants in sporting activities.

The first Chairman was Sir Arthur Porritt (a bronze medallist in the 100 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, behind Harold Abrahams, and subsequently the 11th Governor General of New Zealand and elevated to the peerage in 1973). Six years previously it had been the collaboration with Sir Adolphe Abrahams that led to the foundation of BASM (the change of name to BASEM was in 2000) with the first meeting being held in February 1953. Sir Arthur Porritt was succeeded by the late Sir Victor Goodhew until 1997 when Sir David Money-Coutts KCVO (Chairman of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School 1974-88) was invited by Professor Michael Hobsley, Chairman of the Academic Council, to take up this appointment. On his retirement in 2006 Professor David Patterson MD FRCP FRSPH took over the role at a time of momentous change with the recognition of SEM as a specialty and the creation of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (UK).

In 1960, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT graciously accepted the title of Honorary Fellow of The Institute of Sports Medicine. Five years later, in August, The Institute was registered as a company limited by guarantee, with memos and memoranda similar to those of a Postgraduate Institute. It was felt that in this way the status of sports medicine would be enhanced furthering the aim of The Institute to gain specialty recognition for Sports Medicine. In November of the same year BASM gained similar charitable status.

In 1981, a significant step was taken when the ISM agreed on a syllabus for a post graduate diploma course with the London Hospital Medical College which began, as a three term course, in October of that year. Mr John King, then a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Surgery, was invited to take on this innovative and difficult task.

The funding of the ISM was principally from grants made by the Sports Medicine Foundation controlled by Peter Sebastian and other trustees. It was his intention to stimulate future research and to reward outstanding doctors engaged in Sports Medicine. Consequently, with his encouragement, the Board of The Institute in 1990 inaugurated the Duke of Edinburgh Prize of £1000 for an “outstanding contribution to clinical and/or research work in the field of sports medicine in the community”. The following year the Robert Atkins (then Minister for Sport and subsequently knighted) Award was introduced for “a doctor who has provided, for not less than five years, the most consistently valuable medical (clinical/preventative) service to a national sporting organisation or sport in general”. It could not be more appropriate than that the first award was made to Professor Donald Macleod (former President of BASEM) in 1992.

In 1995, The Prince Philip Medal in Sports Medicine was awarded “to a Doctor as and when merited for an outstandingly significant and original contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge or techniques in the treatment of sports injuries or of psychological and/or physical conditions brought on by participation in particular sports. There is no restriction on the nationality of the recipient”. The Medal was presented to Professor Archie Young by Prince Philip during a ceremony held at St James’s Palace on 8th July, 1996.

However, it has been by the awarding of Fellowships of The Institute (FISM) that the majority of outstanding contributions, totalling more than fifty, have been recognised over the years. The last such ceremony was held on November 27th 2006 at the Royal Society of Medicine when the final four of these Fellowships were awarded. The award of Fellowships is now within the remit of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (UK).

The ISEM has been able to make some contributions since its creation to the development of research, either by organising conferences or by providing bursaries for MSc students. Occasionally it has been able to contribute to the funding of research activities. A grant was made by The Institute, with funds made available by The Sports Medicine Foundation, to the Centre for Human Health and Performance at the Archway Campus of UCL. This helped with some of the early work of the Xtreme-Everest Research Group which was engaged in researching human physiology at extreme altitude. This is a fine example of translational research where the findings of the research have many applications to very ill patients.

The establishment of the specialty of SEM, the major aim of The Institute over the years, opened a new chapter in its history. Whilst it will continue at present to retain its identity, the last two years has seen close collaboration with the Faculty. On 6th November 2006 the Board met with Professor Charles Galasko, Professor Angus Wallace and Dr Victor Cassar- Pullicino (representing the Faculty) at 30 Devonshire Street, London to consider a Memorandum of Understanding with a view to The Institute becoming the Research Arm of the Faculty of SEM (UK). This initiative, formulated by Sir David Money-Coutts, has now been agreed, initially on a trial basis.

In 2008 The Prince Philip Medal in Sports and Exercise Medicine was awarded for the second time. HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, our senior Honorary Fellow graciously hosted the presentation and luncheon at Buckingham Palace. It took place the day before the national celebration of Team GB’s amazing successes in both the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing which included a reception at Buckingham Palace. The medal was presented to Professor Roald Bahr by HRH The Prince Philip. The occasion was attended by distinguished representatives from within the fields of Medicine, Science, Research, the Arts, Politics and Sport.

In 2010 The ISEM and Arthritis Research UK convened a very successful shared international conference. The conference was opened by Dr. Richard Budgett, Chief Medical Officer for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the current chairman of BASEM. The main remit of the two day conference was to identify the scale of the problem of osteoarthritis, its relationship to sport and activity and the research priorities that need to be addressed.

On the evening before the conference, at an event at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Pendry, The ISEM and Arthitis Research UK and by kind permission of the Lord Speaker, the visiting speakers and their partners were greeted. ISEM prizes were presented by Mr Tim Henman OBE. The Duke of Edinburgh Prizes for outstanding contributions to education, clinical and/or research work in the field of sports medicine, and in the community were awarded jointly to – Professor Per Renstrom and Professor Lars Peterson and to Professor Domnhall Macauley and Professor Paul McCrory. The Sir Robert Atkins Prize was awarded to Dr Christopher Jarvis.

The ISEM Strategy Document (2011 – 2014) outlines the concept of the SEM Centres of Excellence. We perceive these as being crucial to the development of excellence in the domains of education, research and clinical delivery in the disciplines involved with SEM. This is outlined diagrammatically.


If we are to succeed in achieving our aspirations, we need to take cognisance of the nature of the research and the drivers of research. The drivers come from several sources. Firstly the funding agencies are very explicit in their wish to support more large scale, multidisciplinary, cross cutting initiatives. Secondly, the Department of Health which wishes to see greater translation of basic science innovation into clinical practice. It also wishes to see stronger partnerships between clinical academic medicine and delivery of health care by establishing Academic Health Science Centres of Excellence. Translational research has become one of the top priorities. This can be defined as “the process of the bidirectional transfer of knowledge between basic work (in the laboratory or elsewhere) with that of the person, in health or disease.” This possibly highlights the opportunity for the discipline of sport and exercise medicine and the associated basic sciences work to develop a strong position in order to deliver this bidirectional transfer of knowledge.

It is hugely rewarding to see the culmination of so much effort by so many dedicated and talented people, now being more firmly established. Huge challenges still lie ahead for the main organisations involved in the development of SEM in the UK. The collaborative working of these organisations will make them a much stronger force to develop world leading education, research and clinical delivery in the domains of sports and exercise medicine, both in the UK and internationally.


The Institute obtained its Coat of Arms in the Summer of 1990 and it does have connections to our Royal Patron.

In the Arms there is a torch of learning. The coronet is an old royal coronet whose use is permitted and symbolizes the Institute’s Royal Patron as does the rock which appears in the arms and badge of Prince Philip. It is doubly significant as it also symbolizes the sure foundation of the Institute. From it issues an arm grasping a torch which here not only symbolizes learning but also the Olympic torch. The arm is at an angle and the flames are streaming behind to suggest that it is the arm of a runner, in the prime of his health and fitness. The snake of healing has also been added.

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