Sport occupies a bigger canvas these days. The focus is no more on sport and sportspersons but on sport and the quality of life. Everyone, right from a company executive to a serious student of a game is keen on deriving the benefits of fitness through the medium of sport. That is where the role of doctors who specialise in sports medicine and fitness trainers comes into play. And this is only now being understood what with more and more people becoming fitness conscious. A specialist in sports medicine and an experienced arthroscopic surgeon David V. Rajan, who has helped innumerable athletes get back to their chosen sport after a breakdown caused by injuries, believes sports medicine is still to gain popularity in India. “This is unlike the scenario in Europe and other developed nations,” he said.
Today, while awareness has increased, people are yet to fully understand the importance of insurance and how it helps beneficiaries reduce their expenses. This is significant, for the one factor that could dissuade those in need of an arthroscopic procedure is the cost. “A surgical procedure cannot be done entirely for free because there are so many elements involved. Insurance helps reduce the burden,” he said.
Dr. Rajan believes, from the enquiries he gets, that group insurance could be the most popular way of meeting costs while, at the same time, getting a remedy. Some of the enquiries he received convinced him that the generation of today, most of them computer savvy and hence, eager Internet browsers, have a good knowledge of surgical procedures to remedy knee or arm-joint problems. With insurance to help, many are keen to avail themselves of surgical remedies without worrying about the cost.
According to Dr. Rajan many problems pertaining to joints that athletes suffer are caused by factors such as inadequate warm-up, and wrong techniques of warming up or stretching. Some ways of avoiding such injuries include exposure to ‘balance training’ and ‘plyometrics’. Balance-training helps improve stability and stimulates the proprioceptors in the joints, while Plyometrics helps facilitate quick reactions. Basically, these come into play in sports such as basketball and volleyball. Each sport has its regimen of preliminary exercises which keep players from sustaining avoidable injuries.
Dr. Rajan recalled how he and national volleyball coach E. Sridharan once visited the NIS camp at Bangalore. “To my surprise, I found most of the volleyballers going about their exercises ignorant of the risks involved to the arm joints,” he said. The need for specialists in sports medicine was never more keenly felt than at these camps, he added.
About sports injuries, Dr. Rajan, who performs over 300 surgeries in a year, said “time was crucial” and the “rehabilitation phase was equally important”. He continued, “If a sportsperson, performing at peak level comes to us the moment he or she realises there’s a problem with his limbs, then there are excellent chances he/she could return to the same performance-level after an arthroscopic procedure and rehabilitation.” He cited the examples of basketball international Anitha and Anil Kumble, former India cricket captain, both prominent sportspersons who had gone in for remedial measures and returned to top-level performances. But, he rued the fact that most often players consulted a specialist only when their injuries seriously affected their performance.
The Coimbatore-based surgeon has an ambitious plan to set up an ‘ortho speciality unit with a facility for sports medicine and rehabilitation’ in Coimbatore. “It is a venture that involves a huge investment and for this some large-hearted corporates have to come forward,” he said.