KOCHI: In India, the term ‘sports medicine’, when defined by a layman, is a medical field in which sportspersons are taken care of. It differs however in the Western world. It is considered a specialised form of medicine which takes care of people who practice any form of physical activity.
Sports medicine, when compared to other major fields in medicine, is considered an infant but its origin shows that it has been present from the ancient times.
History of sports medicine
In the second century, Galen can be considered as one of the first team physicians as he was the treating physician for the gladiators in the Pergamum kingdom. Galen’s treatise “De parvae pilae exercitio” which stands for exercises with the small ball, was a much-appreciated treatise by ancient therapists and brought in exercise as a therapeutic model.Not going far from the tree, in India itself, Susrutha had linked obesity with diabetes and heart diseases, and had mentioned physical activity as a therapeutic model. Since then there have been many doctors who have heralded exercise and health, some of whom are Ibn I Sina, Santorio Santorius and Bernardino Ramazzani.
Moving into the 20th century, the “first congress for the scientific investigation of sports and physical exercises” was held in Oberhorf, Germany in 1912. The first Association International Medico-Sportive was also created during this period. This was for providing medical treatment to athletes who took part in the Olympics. The term ‘sports physician’ or ‘Sportarzt was coined by Arthur Mallwitz and was first used in 1913. In 1928, the International Congress of Sports medicine was created to help with the prevention of injuries in athletes. During the second Winter Olympic games at St Moritz, Switzerland, Association International Medico Sportive was created which was later renamed to Federation Internationale de Medicine Sportive (FIMS) which is currently considered the premier organisation for sports medicine.
Following the establishment of FIMS, numerous organisations were created. After the Second World War in 1958, the first school of specialisation in sports medicine was established in Milan, Italy, by Professor Rodolfo Margaria.
Today, Italy has one of the best public pre-medical screening for playing sports. It is compulsory for any person playing sports to obtain periodical certification of eligibility, by a sports promotion agencies or national federations, to play. This was established in 1950 in Italy.
Currently, an athlete must undergo an annual preventive screening protocol including a past medical history, clinical evaluation, urinalysis, electrocardiogram at rest and after a step test and pulmonary function tests. This evaluation can only be performed by a board-certified sports medicine physician. Sports medicine since the establishment of FIMS has diversified and is now a well-established field of science in most of the developed countries.
Sports medicine in India
Sports medicine in India started developing in the 1970s with the beginning of Indian Association of Sports Medicine. A specialised school for sports medicine was first started in Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala, in 1983. Since then, this institute has been churning out many top sports medicine specialists. In 2010, Masters in sports medicine (MD) was started in Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, and Guru Nanak
Dev University, Amritsar. Since then, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, and Vardhaman Mahavir College, Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, have also started sports medicine courses.Sports medicine in India is slowly growing. Athletes, as well as the general public, is becoming more aware of exercise and have started recognising the importance of sports medicine. New leagues and the development of sports in general, plus the influx of money in different sports has made sports medicine a lucrative field.
Sports medicine in India is still in its nascent stage but it is a profession with a long historical background. Sports science requires to observe, measure, evaluate, analyse and document different aspects of sports and together with clinical medical practice will benefit both active people and professional athletes.
Dr Sidharth J Unnithan is the sports medicine physician at Aster Medcity, Kochi.
(The views expressed by the author are his own.)