Sports medicine is a field of medical science that provides health care for physically active people, especially sportspersons. A practitioner has to take up a number of responsibilities, some of them being selection of sporting talent, evaluating and enhancing human performance, treating sports injuries, etc. It draws on the knowledge of many specialists, including physicians, athletic trainers, physiologists and physical educators. These experts aid in determining the kind of training needed to help athletes perform to their highest capabilities without injury.
What do they do?
Sometime before playing his first Test match, cricketer Ishant Sharma hurt his right shoulder and had problems while bowling. He consulted Dr Prateek K Gupta, consultant orthopaedics and sports surgeon, and was diagnosed to be suffering from a rotator-cuff injury. The treatment included medication and a rehabilitation programme comprising of physiotherapy, local manipulation, and sports-specific manoeuvres/ exercises — stretching and strengthening. “He managed well and went on to play the match and took five wickets,” says Dr Gupta.
US-based Indian golfer Simi Mehra had a knee problem that required immediate surgery. It would have kept her off the circuit for more than a year. She consulted Dr Rajat Chauhan, who calls himself a ‘primary catalyst’ and runs the clinic Back 2 Fitness in New Delhi. He prescribed her some medicines and a series of exercises, because of which her condition improved and surgery was postponed. “Rajat’s clinic is not only for rehabilitation; it is also a place to strengthen your core muscles and increase your flexibility,” says a grateful Mehra.
Welcome to the world of sports medicine, a multidisciplinary clinical and academic specialty that focuses on injuries sustained while doing strenuous activity, or playing sports.
According to Dr Gupta, the scope of work in the country is “tremendous”. However, “there are hardly any sports surgeons or physicians in India. In fact, most athletes are treated by general doctors who may or may not have experience or training in sports medicine,” he says. At the moment, there is a huge requirement for good sports medicine doctors, especially because India is staging the Commonwealth Games 2010, Gupta adds.
There is hardly any awareness of sports medicine among the sports fraternity of the country, says Dr Deepak Chaudhary, director, Sports Injury Centre, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.
“Even the doctors who practise it are not fully aware of the possibilities,” points out Chauhan. Then there is “the lack of job opportunities” and the fact that “it is yet to be recognised as a specialty in the country,” points out Dr Chaudhary. The National Institute of Sports, Patiala, under the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, is the only institute in India recognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI) that offers a two-year postgraduate diploma in sports medicine.
“But the syllabus there does not keep pace with the fast-changing world of international sports,” says Dr Chauhan. It is no surprise then that there are only a few truly good centres in the country where a sportsperson can get proper treatment. As a result, “athletes who can afford treatment abroad go to places such as Australia and South Africa,” says Dr Chaudhary.
The challenge, therefore, is to increase the level of awareness among both doctors and sportspersons, create adequate infrastructure, and acknowledge the fact that sports medicine is no longer confined to injury management alone but extends to, as Dr Chauhan points out, “performance enhancement, injury prevention and rehabilitation”, of a sportsperson.
. You must have excellent diagnostic and healing skills
. You must be able to understand how each sport is played and injuries common to players
. You must have adequate liaison skills as you will have to interact with sports professionals all the time
How do I get there?
To be a sports medicine practioner, you have to be an MBBS, then do the MCI-recognised two-year postgraduate diploma in sports medicine, offered by the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, under the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences. Or you can go abroad for further studies. A sports medicine doctor undergoes training in exercise physiology, conservative practice of orthopaedics and rehabilitation and allied subjects.