Sports medicine and science services were made available to national athletes through the Medical Unit of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1977. Following the advancement of sports in Malaysia, the National Sports Council (NSC) became fully functional in 1981. Consequently, the purpose and role of the Medical Unit at the ministry were absorbed by the NSC which enabled it to continue to provide general medical and sports injury management services to athletes.

By 1982, this unit had started to expand its capabilities by including elements of sports science such as physiology, nutrition and psychology in its services. Several officers were identified and sent for in-service training in their respective fields up to master’s degree level.

In 1984, this unit was upgraded to become the Sports Science Division of the NSC. At that time, it continued to focus on providing services to the elite national athletes undergoing intensive training to compete in sports meets such as the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. In addition, the division took charge of the coaching and talent identification programmes.

The National Sports Policy formulated in 1988 emphasised the setting up of the National Sports Institute (NSI) to conduct scientific research, provide training for athletes, coaches, administrators and other staff and serve as a national sports reference centre.

In 1994, the Sports Science Division was upgraded to the NSI and made a division of the NSC. Following that, the Public Service Department approved four branches under the NSI, namely the Resource Centre Branch providing library services and sports information dissemination, Curriculum Development and Training Branch to implement the National Coaching Certification Scheme in coaching specific sports and sports science, Sports Medical Service Branch and Sports Science Branch which encompassed the areas of ​​physical training and conditioning, physiology, biomechanics and sports psychology.

In addition to sports medicine and sports science disciplines such as physiology, nutrition, physical conditioning, psychology and biomechanics, other elements such as coaching and information management were also included in the NSI structure in line with the roles and responsibilities then in support of the performance of elite national athletes.

On 1 April 1996, the NSI moved from the Jalan Raja Muda Stadium to its current location at the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil.

On 25 April 2007, Dato’ Sri Azalina Dato’ Othman Said, the then Minister of Youth and Sports, decided on a change of the functions of the NSI which led to the separation of the NSI and NSC. Thus the NSI became an entity that focuses on sports science, medicine and research in Malaysia and provides scientific support services to elite athletes right down to the roots.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Dato’ Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, during post-cabinet meeting no. 21/2008 on 4 July 2008 decided that the coaching functions would be transferred from the NSI to the NSC.

The cabinet meeting on 3 September 2008 agreed with the proposal of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to make the NSI a statutory body under the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

On 14 March, the first reading of the NSI bill took place in the House of Representatives, followed by the second reading on 16 June 2011 and the third reading on 27 June 2011.

The first, second and third readings of the NSI bill were tabled on 6 and 7 July 2011 at the Senate. On 5 August 2011, the NSI bill was approved by His Majesty the King and on 16 September 2011, the NSI Act No. 729 came into force. Subsequently, the NSI was declared as a federal statutory body under the Ministry of Youth and Sports.