Sports Medicine: Niche and Unexplored
Dr Sumiran Passey
What is Sports Medicine?
A specialty of medicine which is underutilized and unexplained to many. Sports Medicine is an amalgamation of various aspects of being physically and mentally fit. The wide field of sports medicine not only caters to the athletes but also to the young and old weekend warriors. It’s a fine blend between injury management and performance enhancement.
The sports medicine deals with treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal disorders.
The treatment comprises of both conservative and surgical management depending on the extent and severity of injury. No treatment is complete without a graded and well supervised rehabilitation. The benefits of exercise are known but underutilized by us.
Prehabilitation should be mandated to all those who are scheduled to get surgery. It not only prepares the musculoskeletal system to withstand the invasive procedure but also psychologically prepares the mind and body to undergo the stress of surgery.
A well programmed rehabilitation post-surgery or in those where conservative management is required plays a vital role for return to sports. Time is not a friend for those who are professionals, neither for athletes nor for weekend warriors. Rehabilitation decreases time until complete recovery. Whether it is an age related skeletal disorder or a soft tissue injury, the recovery with physiotherapy is hastened. With all the benefits, the dark side of physical rehabilitation is unsupervised exercise regime. Too less is ineffective and too much is detrimental. Depending on the anatomical part involved and the age of the patient, the time taken for recovery is determined. Another important factor for recovery is good nutrition and responsiveness of patient towards the therapy. But the key to recovery lies with patients and adherence to the regime.
Sports medicine not only ends with injury treatment but also deals with the prevention of future injuries. The cause of injuries can range from external factors to internal factors, i.e. from the field you play on to your age and gender, from the shoe you wear to the musculoskeletal conditioning, and from the equipment you play with to your body’s anthropometry. Some which are external can be modified, but those that are internal factors remain unmodifiable. It is also advised to undergo a comprehensive medical assessment before entering into sports. This pre-participation sports assessment prevents unforeseen medical mis happenings and can be life-saving.
The prevention of injuries starts with proper biomechanical and functional assessment of holistic body with a proper history of present and past complaints. This is followed by dietary modifications for recovery and prevention of injuries. Youngsters in our country underestimate this aspect of nutrition. It is essential to provide our body with appropriate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients to cope with the stress of strenuous physical activities as well as to maintain its homeostatic physiological functioning. The least focused population are those who train in weight categories and gymnasts, where low weight is more stressed upon. According to statistics, females are mostly among those with eating disorders or on strict low carbohydrate diet to lose weight. Malnutrition can be detrimental to health as well as performance; it even disturbs the normal hormonal balance of the human body.
The other aspect of this specialization is performance enhancement within the physiological and psychological domains. The physiological approach deals with the testing on field or in laboratories for the baseline parameters, which are then used to formulate the training and fitness regimes. Increasing trend of self-monitored heart rate training is beneficial. Training in heart rate zones can be used for those who want to maintain body weight, for those who want to remain fit and for those who want to train for high end professional sports. Psychology is as essential as exercise for sportspersons. It can boost the morale, increase the adherence to treatment and rehabilitation, and increase the performance.
Those who specialize should also spread awareness about the use of supplements for performance and physical enhancement. The much-debated topic, supplements should always be weighed between the benefits and the side-effects. The awareness should not only be confined to nutrition but also about doping. A boon for athletes but doom for sports. The spirit of sports is bruised for a piece of metal. Sports and exercise medicine, and sports sciences is unpopular due to its unawareness among the budding sportspersons. Let’s acknowledge those who are still young and enrich those who are chasing the medal.