Sport medicine is fast gaining ground, with India emerging as a hub of activity.
Sport is not just about the game any longer, it’s about science and medical technology, too.
Consider a pace bowler. By analysing how he or she places the foot when bowling, the sports medicine specialist can correct the posture and thereby reduce pain to the spine and leg bones. Similarly a trainer knowledgeable of sports and exercise science can suggest ways in which the bowler can position his or her body in order to maximise the output.
There is a rising need for training, performance enhancement and rehabilitation of athletes, and sports medicine satisfies the need for all this.
A sports physician seeks to help his clients avoid hospitalisation by treating them through exercise. Many conditions such as diabetes and obesity can be managed through a regimen of exercise. Dr. Kannan Pugazhendhi, who has been practising sports medicine for about 30 years, says, “There is not enough progress in developing sports medicine in India. It is very sad that the medical fraternity has not realised its potential. By 2020, it is estimated that about 60 per cent of Indians would suffer from cardiovascular diseases and about 40 per cent would be diabetic. Sports medicine becomes a key solution to such problems.”
Dr. Kannan Pugazhendhi runs the Sparrc Institute (Sports Performance Assessment Rehabilitation and Research Counselling Institute) in Chennai. He feels the need for many trained paramedical staff in his field of work.
Physiotherapists are trained to rehabilitate patients. In contrast Sports Scientists are trained to (i) promote individual health and well being in the general population (through adopting healthy lifestyle practices), (ii) work with sports teams / individuals in an analytical manner to improve sports performance, (iii) work with sports teams / individuals to improve fitness (via training), (iv) conduct research in the field of sports science.
Dr Dale Rae, Senior Researcher University of Cape Town, says, “Effectively we train them to be ‘jacks of all trades’ and the graduates then decide which area they would like to specialise in professionally (biomechanics, exercise physiology, sports analysis, high performance athlete training, health promotion, lifestyle management, health policy development and translation, education, researcher, etc). This specialisation can either be done through an M.Sc or Ph.D degree, or through ‘on-the-job’ training and work experience.”
Dr. Rae’s team usually works on research projects but occasionally it works with individuals to train them, for instance, Mark Shuttleworth who was the first South African to go into space and “the human polar bear” — Lewis Pugh who is a cold water swimmer who has set a number of records for the furthest north (North Pole) and south (Antarctica) cold water swims, as well as a record for the longest swim in cold water.
Employment prospects for B.Sc. Sports and Exercise Science are wide-ranging — from the fitness industry to physical education colleges. The course content should make it easy for the students to adapt to any space such as school or college or emergency medical care centres. There is likely to be a demand for such fitness personnel not just in India but also overseas.
B.Sc. in Sports Science
Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, has come up with an answer to this need. They already offer MD in sports medicine; they now plan to start an undergraduate course — a four-year B.Sc.in sports and exercise science — which will be open to those who have passed Class XII. In contrast to the B.Sc. in physical education and sports, this course will teach the student to make a scientific assessment of body movements.
Students will study sports psychology, sports nutrition, sports biomechanics, bio kinesiology — which is an analysis of movements — and other relevant subjects. The last year of the course will be an internship where the student will learn to put to practice all they have learnt. SRU is designing this course in collaboration with the University of Capetown, which is a leader in this field. Students can enrol in this programme from next year and the degree will be given by SRU and the Unievrsity of Cape Town.
To this effect they are developing an indoor swimming pool, a multipurpose hall and a biomechanical lab.