In conversation with Prof. Karim Khan - The Legend behind the Bible of Sports Medicine by Anubha Singhai

With more than 350 publications to his name,he has been the editor in chief of the British Journal of sports medicine since 2008. PHYSIOTIMES is blessed to have conversation with the man himself Mr.Karim Khan in our 14th Anniversary Edition.

Over your time as the Editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the impact factor rose multiple folds. What do you think is the reason?

I was fortunate to join the BMJ Group and BJSM specifically in 2008. The BMJ group provided a great deal of opportunity for Editors of specialised journals, such as BJSM, to experiment with a range of new ideas. Journals were moving from the traditional ‘print journal—hard copy’ model to the digital product widely accessible online with exciting channels to share clinical information easily such as video, podcast, the full range of social media. 

I was also given the licence to bring in physiotherapy editors such as Professors Jill Cook and Kay Crossley, as well as Dr Clare Ardern. They really boosted the journal and ensured we were publishing quality physiotherapy research and communicating it via the channels I mentioned earlier. As you know Anubha, a journal is only as good as it’s content—submissions in this case—and we were fortunate the BJSM became the ‘go-to’ journal for many in our community. I was certainly grateful for that. The current Editorial team, which includes physio Dr Joanne Kemp, began in 2021 and they are doing a great job.  

Your book ‘Brukner and Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine’ is described as the Bible of Sports Medicine. What according to you has led to the great connection it has made over years with the multi-disciplinary readers?

Thanks Anubha—that’s very kind. It certainly comes down to the authors and I would say quite a bit to our artist as well. The 5th edition had over 120 authors for the 48 chapters in Volume 1 Injuries. Peter and I have been blessed by the world’s leading authors contributing to this book. Everyone has the clear vision that it’s meant to be ‘Clinical’—so we focus on that with clear instruction to the reader and over 1000 illustrations/photos to help clinicians. Your readers will be wondering whether there will be a 6th edition in 2024 (2nd half of the year) and there may well be. The team is working on the new Edition all around the world. 

Do you feel the need to have more Physios inclined towards Research?

I think that clinicians who want to do research should be supported and I think there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. I know the full spectrum of physios—from the ones who say they do ‘no research’ to the most famous research physios in the world. All clinical practice still relies on research so I dispute the ‘no research’ claim but I know what folks mean. As an outsider to the profession, I can say that the physio profession has done a great job in research—there is now a wonderful body of physio research as we know by looking at PEDro!

You have always said that “Low fitness is a better predictor of mortality than Obesity or Diabetes.’ Please share your views on the same.

Wow, this is tough to do in a few sentences! Steven Blair published those compelling data about the power of exercise in the late 1990s. In a cohort, the folks who exercised survived better than folks who didn’t exercise, even when the folks who exercised were quite obese and had diabetes. Physios have a great role to play to encourage people to be active—I know many embrace that for the right patient. And remind them that ‘something is better than nothing’.

Please explain the concept of ‘Mechanotherapy’ and why is it important for Clinicians?

I’d love to provide a link for this as I hope some physio readers might be keen to learn more if I do a good job here! When I started talking about this concept around 2010 there was less recognition of ‘how’ physio exercise prescription worked. There were theories about strengthening and improved blood flow which is all true but there had been little education in the medical or physio courses about the cellular mechanisms that cause the cells to repair/heal in response to activity—forces that load the tissue. The physiological phenomenon, ‘mechanotransduction’ works well on all a wide range of tissue including muscles, bone, joint surfaces, ligaments etc. The tag-line in my talks back then was ‘turning movement into repair’. Here’s the free link:

Publication of more than 350 works with over 44,000 citations. What do you think is the driving force that keeps you going?

You are very kind bringing that up Anubha. I am in a research team that suggests these metrics are not necessarily great measures of research impact or quality and we push for measures such as change at the policy level, changes in education, changes in family and individual behaviour. Research impact. 
Let me also be sure to shout out to tremendous mentors (and I still have mentors), colleagues and research trainees—the 14 PhD trainees I have supervised to date as a primary supervisor. Research certainly is a team game. I have been fortunate and I am grateful.

7. What message do you wish to give to the Physio Community?

Thank you for being a great community to work with clinically and in research; thanks for letting me in all over the world as a colleague and friend. You are an amazing community and I hope the funders ensure your good work gets to the literally billions around the world who need it. 




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