Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, study and treatment of sports-related injuries. Sports physicians also deal with the topics of doping and anti-doping. Sports physicians have specialized in studying, treating and monitoring physical load-related injuries. To protect and maintain good health, both professional and amateur athletes should undergo regular health checks. Sports physicians can recommend tests and procedures that help to determine the optimal or unharmful physical load, and give advice on injury-related rehabilitation plans, so that the athlete can start training again as soon as possible and as safely as possible. The most common sports injuries are muscle strains and tears, but overload-related injuries are also quite numerous. Most frequently, trauma-related injuries affect the ankle joint, metatarsal bones and knee region. Examples of overload-related injuries include the runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
At the consultation, a sports physician assesses the athlete’s training load and gives recommendations on healthy eating and recovery. In addition to the physician’s consultation, a sports medical health check includes different tests and measurements of different parameters of the organism, such as ECG (cardiogram) and spirography (test of lung function). Blood analyses help to assess both general health and sports-related risks. Cardiac stress test helps to develop an individually tailored training plan. If necessary, a sports physician issues health certificates to athletes, coaches, sports federations and competition organizers.
Cardiac stress test can be performed by means of a veloergometer (stationary bicycle), treadmill or rowing machine. During the cardiac stress test, the load is increased incrementally every 2–3 minutes until maximum capacity is reached. At each load level, the blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate of the tested person is measured. In professional athletes, blood lactate level in response to exercise is also measured to determine the limits of anaerobic and aerobic metabolism and give detailed recommendations on training programs. Cardiopulmonary stress test is an even more thorough method of assessing the general health of an athlete. Cardiopulmonary stress test enables to determine the maximum oxygen consumption capacity of the organism. Comparing the results of stress tests performed at different times gives a good overview of the development of an athlete and the effectiveness of his or her trainings.
Most frequent sports injuries
The frequency and type of injuries vary depending on the sports. Athletes are especially prone to injuries in contact sports like boxing and mixed martial arts. The most typical injuries in these sports include concussions, wounds and knee joint traumas. Team sports like American football, ice hockey, soccer and basketball are also quite dangerous in terms of injuries. In these sports, concussions, ankle joint and knee traumas, but also shoulder and finger injuries are quite frequent. Falls in skiing and ice-skating lead to upper limb fractures and head traumas primarily. In addition to injuries, long-term physical overload may damage the joints of athletes.
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a physical overload-related inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis) on the outer side of the elbow joint. The symptoms of lateral epicondylitis include local or radiating pain, and limited movement of the elbow joint. Most often, this condition affects tennis players, but also badminton and squash players.
The Hamstring syndrome is characterized by painful and uncomfortable feelings in the muscles at the back of the thigh, but the pain may sometimes radiate to the hip or pelvis, too. Most often, the Hamstring syndrome affects runners and soccer players.
Knee meniscus tear is a relatively frequent injury in soccer, basketball and tennis players, and mountain skiers. The meniscus is a cartilaginous structure in the knee joint that acts as a shock absorber during walking, running and jumping. The medial (inner) part of the meniscus is especially prone to injuries.
Amenorrhea and osteoporosis
In female athletes amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) is more frequent than in the general women’s population. The more intensive the training, the more prevalent is this problem. The so-called sports amenorrhea is caused by changes in female sex hormones, but also by underweight and low body fat percentage. The prevention of amenorrhea is especially important in young female athletes to avoid health problems related to hormonal deviations (such as vertebral osteoporosis) in later life.
Sports physician’s consultation10 clinics
A sports physician is a specialized doctor who studies, treats and monitors sports-related illnesses, injuries and other conditions. A sports physician consults professional athletes and top-level amateurs about their health problems. If necessary, the sports physician performs a stress test to assess the physical endurance and possible cardiovascular health risks of the client. Based on the results of the tests and analyses, the sports physician helps to choose suitable exercise intensity and draw up a training plan. He or she also gives advice on injury prevention and recovery. A timely consultation with a sports physician helps to prevent overload-related injuries and serious health damage.