The Dr is in | Sports
Dr. Akshai Mansingh/Contributor
IN OUR first Sport Pulse column, we mentioned that the Faculty of Sports at the University of the West Indies has raised the level of academic provision in sports, while coordinating varsity sports teams and social outreach and support programs. .
The Mona campus had been involved in advancing the specialty of sports medicine long before the establishment of the faculty in 2017.
In 2006, a master’s program in sports medicine for physicians was launched to introduce a sports medicine specialty to the region. A few years later, the Masters in Sports and Exercise Medicine-Physical Therapy became the first postgraduate physical therapy program offered by the university, producing sports physical therapists.
As the progress of the sport has relied on greater attention to science and technology, support staff have also had to upgrade and specialize. Coaches who lack basic knowledge of biomechanics, data and video analysis, and a general appreciation of sports medicine are at a disadvantage and often disqualified from the highest positions.
Traditionally, a cricket team traveled with only a manager and a tennis player with his coach. It is now common for support staff to exceed the number of coaches. Indeed, optimal performance requires the contribution of highly specialized support personnel.
The specialty of sports medicine encompasses in-depth knowledge of sports nutrition, sports psychology, biomechanics, sports physiology, injury management and rehabilitation, and the intricacies of anti-doping policies. The sports physician and physiotherapist can guide athletes through sport-specific fitness analysis, as well as advice on individualized programs for each athlete. The other branch of sports medicine is the use of exercise to control non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and many others that plague the region. The ability of the sports physician or sports physiotherapist to provide individualized exercise prescriptions, including advice on sports nutrition, has reduced drug dependency and associated costs.
The field of medicine has traditionally been based on a vertical scale whereby a patient presents to a general practitioner who treats most patients but refers complicated cases to the relevant specialist. Support from physiotherapists and other paramedical specialties is usually obtained by the specialist.
The sports medicine model is more of a wheel and a spoke in which the athlete is at the center and all of the interconnected spokes of the wheel lead to the improvement of the athlete. This includes coaches, sports doctors and physiotherapists, families and all other support structures. Each of these elements can interact and refer to each other. If other specialists are needed, sports psychologists, sports nutritionists, sports physiologists, etc. can be included.
The sports doctor is responsible for integrating medical management, including injuries. Most sports physicians are well versed in ultrasound investigation and know when to order further investigation. The prevailing view that all injuries should be scanned by MRI is flawed and very expensive. Many injuries are over- or incorrectly investigated. In countries like Australia, the government will subsidize an MRI investigation ordered by an orthopedic surgeon or sports doctor, but the cost of referral for all others must be borne entirely by the patient.
Another misconception is that sports medicine only applies to elite athletes. In fact, sports medicine specialists also care for recreational and competitive athletes. In other athletically advanced countries, sports physicians and sports physiotherapists are hired to care for high school and college athletes, sports clubs and teams as well as elite sports.
This concept has not caught on in Jamaica, where it is still common to have a general practitioner or a physiotherapist, or a specialist in a completely different field of medicine, to care for athletes. The culture of relying on free services rather than specialist services has cost many young athletes their athletic careers, as injuries are either misdiagnosed, mismanaged, or athletic potential is not discovered.
This culture of using anyone who would provide the service for free has had its consequences. As we revel in producing Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson Herah and others, one shudders to think of how many similar athletes have been lost to inappropriate intervention by non-specialists.
It’s literally asking a skin specialist to deliver your baby or remove your kidney stones.
Since its inception, the Sports Medicine Division has produced graduates who have served as Sports Physicians and Physiotherapists for Jamaica, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad -and-Tobago.
There is also a shortage of sports medicine centers run by fully qualified sports specialists in Jamaica. The UWI Sports Medicine Center is perhaps the only one to offer such an integrated service. This has provided services to all athletes in the region since 2008. The fact that the government has announced the expansion of this project as a Jamaica 60 Legacy Project shows their commitment to providing specialist sports services to all .
Sport Pulse and Sport Matters are bi-monthly columns highlighting developments impacting sport. We look forward to your continued readership.
Dr. Akshai Mansingh is Dean of the Faculty of Sports at UWI. He can be contacted at [email protected]