In this episode, Aalborg University Professor, Prof Michael Rathleff, talks about his role at the upcoming WCSPT.

Today, Michael talks about how he organized the congress, creating tools for clinicians to educate their patients, and his research on overuse injuries in adolescents. What are the barriers between the research and implementation in practice?

Hear about the mobile health industry, exciting events at the congress, and get his advice to his younger self, all on today’s episode of The Healthy, Wealthy & Smart Podcast.


Key Takeaways

  • “The clinicians out there have a hard time both finding the evidence, appraising the evidence, and understanding [if it’s] good or bad science.”
  • “There’s a lot a clinician can do outside of a one-on-one interaction with a patient.”
  • “It’s our role to understand the needs of the individual patient, then make up something that really meets those needs.”
  • “It’s okay to say no. You have to make sure to say yes to the right things.”


More about Michael Rathleff

headshot of Professor Michael Rathleff Prof Michael Rathleff coordinates the musculoskeletal research program at the Research Unit for General Practice in Aalborg.

The research programme is cross-disciplinary and includes researchers with a background in general practice, rheumatology, orthopaedic surgery, physiotherapy, sports science, health economics and human‐centered informatics.

He is the head of the research group OptiYouth at the Research Unit for General Practice. Their aim is to improve the health and function of adolescents through research.


Suggested Keywords

Healthy, Wealthy, Smart, Healthcare, Physiotherapy, Sports, Research, Injuries, WCSPT, Education,


IFSPT Fourth World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy


To learn more, follow Michael at:



Twitter:            @michaelrathleff


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Read the Full Transcript Here:


Hello, Professor Ratliff, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today to talk a little bit more about your role at the fourth World Congress is sports, physical therapy in Denmark, August 26, to the 27th. So, as we were talking, before we went on the air, we were saying, man, you’re wearing a bunch of hats during this Congress, one of which is part of the organizing committee. So my first question to you is, as a member of the Organising Committee, what were your goals? And what are you hoping to achieve with this Congress?



I think my role is primarily within the scientific committee. And one of the things we discussed very, very early on was this, like, you know, when you go for a conference, you go up to a conference, you hear a bunch of interesting talks, and you feel like, I’m motivated, I’m listening, I’m taking in new things. But then Monday morning, when you see the next patient, it’s not always that all the interesting stuff that you saw, is actually applicable to my patient Monday morning. So we wanted to try and emphasize more. How can we use this conference as a way to translate science into practice? So the whole program and the like, the presentations will be more about clinical applicability, and less about more p values and research methodology. So not that the research is not sound, but there’ll be more focused on how can we actually apply it in the context that were working. That’s why also, we had the main title of translating research into practice, which I think will be hopefully a cornerstone that people will see, well, if there’s really interesting talk about, it could be overuse injuries in kids, which will be a lecture that I’m having, then they’ll also be a practical workshop afterwards to kind of use that what’s been presented, and then really drill down on how we can use it in in clinical practice. So the goal is to, to get people to reflect in your network, but also take a lot of the things and think, Wow, this is something that I can use next Monday for clinical practice.



And aside from a lot of lectures and talks, you’ve also got in informatics competition. And so could you explain that a little bit and why you decided to bring that into the Congress?



Yeah, so this was a major, not a debate, but an interesting discussion on how we can even in the early phases of the conference, when people submit an abstract, make sure that the abstract can actually also reach more end users target audiences for that case. So we decided that people actually had to submit an infographic together with their the abstract. So normally, you send in like, 250 words, for a conference, but for this conference, we wanted them to submit the abstract, but also the visual infographic to go along with Olympic Well, am I making an infographic that is tailored to patient? Is that a patient aid that I’m trying to make? Is it something that’s aimed but other researchers? Or is it clinicians, so they have to tick off? Which box Am I infographic actually intended for? So when the audience or the participants come and join the conference, they can actually take these infographics for those that want to print them they can use in the clinic afterwards, just another layer of trying to make some of this research more easily communicated to the audience, but also, the things that can be used in clinical practice, like some of the people have submitted abstract, have some really, really nice infographics that I expect will be printed and hang on, on a few clinic doors around the world afterwards, I hope.



And when it comes to dissemination of research and information from the clinician, to the patient, or even to the wider public, where do you think clinicians and researchers get stuck? Like where is the disconnect between that dissemination of information as we the information as we see, and by the time it gets to the consumer or to let’s say, a mass media outlet? It’s like, what happened?



Yeah, that’s a big a big question. Because it’s almost like why are we not better at implementing new research into our clinical practice? And I think there’s heaps of different barriers. We’ve we’ve done a couple of studies, something new was also in the pipeline where we look specific, get the official context, and we can see that this barriers in terms of understanding the research, that’s actually one of the major barriers that the clinicians out there have a really hard time both finding the evidence, appraising the evidence, and also actually understanding is this good or bad science. And then you have the whole time constraints on a clinical practice because who’s going to pay you to sit and use two hours On reading this paper, and remember, this is just one paper on ACL injuries. But in my clinical practice, I see a gazillion different different things. So how am I going to keep up with the with the evidence? Is it intended that I’m reading original literature? Or how am I going to keep up with it? So I think there’s a lot of different barriers. But at least one of the ways I think we can overcome some of these barriers is that researchers climb out of the ivory tower and think of other ways that we can communicate, research, evidence synthesis, it could be infographics, it could be sort of like decision age for clinical practice, at least that’s one of the routes we’re taking in terms of also the talk I’m giving at the conference that we’re trying to think of, Can we somehow develop AIDS that will support clinical practice something that scene but the physiotherapist something that’s aimed at the patient, that will sort of make it easier to deliver evidence based practice? So we’ve done one, one tool that’s being developed at the moment is called the Makhni, which is something that can assist clinicians in the diagnosis, the communication of how do you communicate to kids about chronic knee pain? How do I make sure that they have the right expectation for what my management can be? And how can we engage in a shared decision making process. And we have a few other things in the pipeline as well, where we want to, to build something, build something practical that you can take in use in clinical practice to to support you in delivering good quality care, because just publishing papers is not going to change clinical practice, I think,



yeah, and publishing papers, which are sometimes wonderful papers. But if they’re not getting out to the clinicians, they’re certainly not going to get out to the patients and to people, sort of the mass population.



I completely agree. It’s a bigger discussion, I’m really focused on how to reach clinicians, because I see the clinicians as the entry point to delivering care to patients and parents and, and the surrounding surrounding community. But if you think of, like wider public health interventions, we have the same problem as well. And also we create this sort of like, No, this inequality in healthcare, but that’s another



line, although there can of worms. Yeah, we could do a whole series of podcasts on that. Yeah, yeah. And I agree with you that it needs to come from the clinician. So creating these tools to help clinicians better educate their patients, which in turn really becomes their community. Because there’s a lot a clinician can do outside of just a one on one interaction with the patient. And so having the right tools can make a big difference.



Like in, if you look at a patient that comes to you for an ACL injury, or long standing musculoskeletal complaint, they’re going to spend maybe 0.1% of their time together with you and 99.9%, they’re out on their own. And I think it’s important that we when we’re one on one with them, sort of like make them develop the competencies so they can do the right decisions for their health in the 99.9% of the time that they’re out there alone, when they’re not with with us, I completely agree with you that there’s a lot of things we can do to make them more competent in thriving despite of knee pain, or shoulder pain or whatever it might, it might be. And I think that’s one of the most important tasks, I think, for us as clinicians is to think about the everyday lives they have to live when they leave us and say see you next time.



Yeah, and to be able to clearly communicate whatever their diagnosis by might be, or exercise program or, or any number of, of 10s of 1000s of bio psychosocial impacts that are happening with this person. Because oftentimes, and I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, I’m sure other therapists would agree that they’ve this has happened to them as well as you explain everything to the patient, and then they come back and it’s, they got nothing zero. And it might be because you’re not disseminating the information to them in a way that’s helpful for them or in a way that’s conducive with their learning style. So having different tools, like you said, maybe it’s an infographic that the patient can look at and be like, Oh, I get it now. So having a lot of variety makes a huge difference.



And I think you touched on a super important point there that patients are very different, that they have different learning styles, they have different needs. And I think it’s our role to enlist Send the needs of the individual patient and make up something that really meets those needs. So more about listening, asking questions and less about thinking that we have the solution to it, because I think within musculoskeletal health or care, whatever we call it, some clinicians would use their words to communicate a message that might be good for some other patients would prefer to have a folder or leaflet. Others would say, I want a phone, I want an app on my phone, something that’s like learning on demand, because at least that’s something we see regularly. Now that we have the older population that wants a piece of paper, we have the younger population that wants to have something that they can sort of like, rely on when they’re out there on their own one advice on how do I manage this challenging situation to get some good advice when you’re not there? When I’m all on my own? So, so different?



Yeah, and I love those examples. I use apps quite frequently. And I had a patient just the other day say, Oh, my husband put this, the app that that you use, because I was giving her PDFs, and she’s like, Oh, my husband put the app on my phone. Now it’s so much easier. So now I know exactly what to do if I have five minutes in my day. So it just depends.



And I think the whole like mobile health industry, there’s a lot of potential there. But I also see, at least from a Danish context, that there’s a lot of apps that is very limited. It’s not not developed on a sound evidence base, or it’s just sort of like a container of videos with exercises. And I think there’s a huge potential in like thinking of how can we do more with this? How can we make sure that it’s not just the delivery vehicle for a new exercise, but it’s actually the delivery vehicle for improving the competencies for self management for individuals? I think there’s, yeah, I’m looking forward to the next few years to see how this whole field develops. Because I think there’s really big potential in this.



Yeah, not like you’re not doing enough already. But you know, maybe you’ve just got your next project now. Like, you’re not busy enough already. So as we, as you alluded to a few minutes ago, you’ve got a couple of different talks you’re chairing, so you’ve got a lot going on at the World Congress. So do you want to break down, give maybe a little sneak peek, you don’t have to give it all away, we want people to go to the conference to listen to your talks. But if you want to break down, maybe take a one or two of your topics that you’ll be speaking on, and I give us a sneak peek.



I think the talk that will be most interesting for me to deliver and hopefully also to listen to is is the talk that I’m giving on overuse injuries in adolescence, because I think it’s we haven’t had a lot of like conferences in the past couple of years. So it will be one of these talks will be meaty in terms of of new date, and some of the things I’m most interested go out and present is all the qualitative research we’ve done on understanding adolescents and their parents, in terms of what are the challenges they experience? How can we help them and also, we’ve done a lot of qualitative works on what are the challenges that face us experience when dealing with kids with long standing pain complaints, we’ve developed some new tools that can sort of like, help this process to improve care for these young people. And I really look forward trying to Yeah, to hear what people think of, of our ideas and, and the practical tools that we’ve that we’ve developed. So that’s at least one of the talks, that’s going to be quite interesting, hopefully, also, we’re going to actually have the data from our 10 year follow up of so I have a cohort that I started during my PhD. They were like 504 kids with with knee pain. And now I follow them prospectively for 10 years. And this time period, I’ve gotten a bit more gray hair and gray beard. But this wealth of data that comes from following more than 500 kids for 10 years with chronic knee pain is going to be really, really interesting. And we’re going to be finished with that. So I’m also giving a sneak peek on unpublished data on the long term prognosis of adolescent knee pain and at the conference. So that’s going to be the world premiere for for that big data set as well.



Amazing. And as you’re talking about going through some of the qualitative research that you’ve done, and you had mentioned, there were some challenges from the physio side and from the child side in the patient and the child’s parents side. Can you give us maybe one challenge that kind of stuck out to you that was like, boy, this is really a challenge that is maybe one of the biggest impediments in working with this population.



I think I think there’s multiple one thing that I’m really interested in these in this moment is the whole level of like diagnostic uncertainty and kids, because one of the things we’ve understood is that if the kids and the parents don’t really understand why they have knee pain, what’s the name of the knee pain, it becomes this cause of them seeking care around the healthcare system on who can actually help me who can explain my pain. So so at the moment, we’re trying to do a lot of things on how we can reduce this, what would you call diagnostic uncertainty and provide credible explanations to the kids and then trying to develop credible explanation for both kids and parents? That’s actually not an easy task, because what is a credible explanation of what Patellofemoral Pain is when we don’t have a good understanding of the underlying pathophysiology? So there, we’re doing a lot of work on combining both clinical expertise, what the patient needs, what we know from the literature, and then we’re trying to solve, iterate and test these credible explanations with the kids. And yeah, at the conference, we’ll have the first draft of these, what we call credible explanation. So that’s going to be at least one barrier one challenge, I hope that some of the practical tools we’ve developed can actually help



i for 1am, looking forward to that, because there is it is so challenging when you’re working with children, adolescents, and their parents who are sort of call it doctor shopping, you know, where you’re, like you said, you’re going around to multiple different practitioners, just with their fingers crossed, hoping that someone can explain why their child is in pain or not performing are not able to, you know, be a part of their peer group or, or or engage in what normal kids would would generally do. Exactly. Yeah. Oh, I’m definitely looking forward to that. So what give us one other sneak peek? Because I know you’ve got the, you’re also chairing a talk on the first day. But what else I shouldn’t say I don’t want to put words in your mouth. What else? Are you looking forward to even maybe if it’s not your talk, are you looking forward to maybe some other presentations,



I’m actually looking forward to to the competitions we have as well, because I’ve had a sneak peek of some of the research that’s been submitted as abstracts, and the quality is super high. So both the oral presentations but also the presentation that the best infographics because they’ll also get time to actually rip on the big screen and present their infographic. And I look forward to see how people can communicate the messages from these amazing infographics. And I think these two competitions are going to be to be a blast and going to be really, really fun to, to look at. And amazing research as well. So I really look forward to the two events as well. And then of course, oh no, go ahead. No, I was just talking about look forward to meeting with friends and new friends and be out talking to people once again in beautiful new ball in Denmark in the middle of summer. It’s hard to be Denmark in the summer. We don’t have a lot of good weather, but Denmark in August is just brilliant.



Yes, I’ve only been there in February. So I am definitely looking forward to to Denmark and August as well. Because I’ve only been there for sports Congress when it’s a little chilly and a little damp. So summer sounds just perfect. And I’ve one more question. Just kind of piggybacking off of your comments on the amazing research within these competitions. And since you know you have been in the research field, let’s say for a decade plus right getting your PhD a decade ago. How have you seen physio research change and morph over the past decade? Have you seen just it better research coming from specifically from the physio world?



I think it’s the first time someone said it’s actually more than a decade. So, but that gives me a time perspective. But yeah, I’ve actually seen that. My perception is that physiotherapy research in general but also sports physiotherapy research went from being published in smaller journals we published in our own journals to now there’s multiple example of sport fishers performing really, really nice trials that have reached the best medical journals that have informed clinical practice. So I think we see this both there’s more good research Basically out there. And I also see that we’ve moved from, like a biomechanical paradigm to being more user a patient center, we see more qualitative research, we see that physiotherapist, sport physiotherapist, they sort of have a larger breadth of different research designs, they used to tackle the research. I think, like looking even at the ACL injuries, if you go back 10 years in time, looking at the very biomechanically oriented research that was primarily also joined by orthopedic surgeons to a large extent. Now, today where fishers have done amazing research, they understand all the the fear of reentry, they’re trying to do very broad rehabilitation programs, ensuring that people don’t return to sport too rapidly. And and also understanding why they shouldn’t return back to his board now developing tools that you can use when you sit with a patient to try and and educate them on what are the phases, we need to go through the next nine to 12 months before you can return to sport and so on. So I think I’m just impressed by, by the research. And when I see the even the younger people in my group now, they start at a completely different level when they start their PhD compared to what we did. So I can only imagine that the quality is going to improve over the years as well, because they’re much more talented, they’re still hard working. And they have a larger evidence base to sort of like stand on. And they already from the beginning, see the benefit of these interdisciplinary collaborations with the whole medical field and who else is is relevant to include in these collaborations? So yeah, the future is bright. I see. Yeah,



I would agree with that. And now as we kind of start to wrap things up here, where can people find you? So websites, social media, tell the people where you’re at.



So I think if you just type in my name on Google, there’ll be a university profile at the very top where you can see all my contact information. Otherwise, just feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter, search for my name. And you’ll find me, I try to be quite rapid and respond to the direct messages when, when possible, at least



perfect. And we’ll have all the links to that in the show notes at podcast at healthy, wealthy So you can just go there, click on it’ll take you right to all of your links. So is there anything that you want to kind of leave the listeners with when it comes to the world congresses, sports physiotherapy or physical therapy, sorry.



Be careful not to miss it, it’s going to be one of these conferences with a magical blend of practical application of signs, it’s going to be a terrific program in terms of possibilities to to network and engage in physical activity, whatever it’s running, or mountain biking, and with an amazing conference dinner as well. So I think it’s, so this would come to be one of one of the highlights for me this year. So and I think the whole atmosphere around this conference is also that if you come there, as a clinician, you don’t know anybody, that people will be open and welcoming and happy to engage in conversation. There’s no speakers, that wouldn’t be super happy to grab a beer or walk to discuss some of the ideas that’s been presented at the conference. So I think it’s going to be quite, quite good.



Yeah. So come with an open mind come with a lot of questions and come with your workout clothes. Is is what I’m hearing?



Yes, definitely. Definitely.



And final question, and it’s one that I asked everyone is knowing where you are now in your life and in your career? What advice would you give to your younger self, and you can pick whatever time period your younger self is.



So I think in if I had to give myself one advice when I was in my sort of like, MIT Ph. D, time coming towards the end, I would say to myself, that it’s okay to say no, you have to make sure to say yes to the right things because it’s very easy to say yes to everything. And then you create these peak stress periods for yourself that would prohibit you from from doing things that is value being with friends or family and so on. You don’t have to say yes to everything because there will be multiple opportunities afterwards. So practice in saying no and do it in a in a polite way. People actually have a lot of respect for people that say, No, I don’t have a time or I’m I’m going to invest my time on this because this is what I really think is going to change the field. And this is my vision. So So young Michael, please please practice in saying no.



I love that advice. Thank you so much. So Michael, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And again, just a reminder, I know we’ve said this before, but the World Congress is sports, physical therapy, we’ll be in Denmark, August 26 and 27th of this year 2022. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast and thank you for all of your hard work and getting making this conference the best it can be.



Thank you, Karen, thank you for the invitation to the podcast.



Absolutely. And everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.

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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
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