Participation in athletics is both an enjoyable pastime and a part of keeping physically
and mentally fit. Some individuals may only be interested in general conditioning and
weight loss, while others may want specific exercises for certain events. Regardless of
the activity, risks are always involved, and today's physician must be able to not only
treat the various injuries that arise , but also offer counsel on a wide range of other
interrelated subjects.(Berger 294) Sports medicine is the prevention and treatment of
injuries suffered by athletes in sporting activities. An athlete is anyone who engages in
any kind of sport, from those who walk for exercise to those who play competitive
sports.(Darden XI) Athletes not only need treatment for sports injuries but as well help or
advice related to sports activities. In the past such people would go to their doctor or
coach and get standard medical or athletic attention. Now, more and more athletes are
turning to experts in the field of sports medicine.(Berger 2) Sports medicine
encompasses a wide variety of specialties. In the following report, adherence to a
balanced diet, prevention of injuries and first aid, will be looked at. As well, the history
and importance of sports medicine and why there is a need for this field of medicine.
Sports Medicine has long been available to the injured athlete. An Egyptian
surgical manual written during the era of the Old Kingdom - more than 4000 years ago -
explained treatments for sprains and dislocations. Hippocrates(460-377 BC), the
ancient Greek honored as the father of medicine, described surgery to repair a dislocated
shoulder noting that, " Many persons owing to this accident have been obliged to
abandon gymnastic exercises." (Edelson 18) The idea that athletes need special care goes
all the way back to ancient Greece. In those days the sports medicine doctors were
called gymnasts, a Greek word that originally referred to those who trained and treated
Over the following centuries sports medicine dropped in importance. Populations
were diminishing due to disease, plagues and starvation. Doctors were extremely limited
by the drugs and treatments that were available. They were mostly concerned with the
patients survival. Since sports was such a small part of daily life, they saw little need to
develop this branch of medicine.(Berger 9-10) These unfortunate circumstances remained
the same until the end of the 1800's, around the time of re-interest in sports, particularly
in the Olympics. The first book in English on sports medicine was published in
Three pioneer sports scientists, Robert Osgood, P.D. Wilson, and Gus Thorndike,
established the first fitness laboratory at Harvard University in 1919.(Berger 10) The
International Congress of Sports Medicine was founded in 1928, and the American
College of Sports Medicine followed, in 1954. These organizations began the growth of
a branch of medicine whose practicing professionals treat millions of patients yearly, in
North America and abroad.( Edelson 19)
Nutrition is very important in sports medicine. For an athlete to stay in top shape,
the body must get a wide range of nutrients to assist its physiological development. The
right diet is the first step. Estimates of what constitutes a prudent diet vary somewhat,
but most experts agree on the basics. The only difference between what an athlete and a
nonathlete should eat is a slightly higher intake from the breads and cereal group for
those who do a lot of endurance training.
FOOD GROUP *SERVINGS PRINCIPAL FOODS
Milk 3-4 Cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
Meat 2 Meat, poultry, fish, eggs (also beans)
Vegetables and Fruit 1 Vitamin C: citrus fruits and juices
1 Vitamin A: carrots, broccoli, greens
2 White potatoes, other vegetables
Breads and Cereals 4 Whole-grain and enriched breads
cereals; rice; pasta; noodles
Extras 2-4 Butter, vegetable oils, honey, candies
desserts, carbonated beverages
( * minimum number of daily servings for young adults)
Eating for Maximum Performance
The following important points for maximizing athletic performance and level of
health were born from the large body of research that has been done on proper diet and
- Most athletes need a higher than average energy, or calorie, intake. The best
sources for those calories are the grains, dried fruit, breads, and pastas.
- Complex carbohydrates are vital because they contain minerals and vitamins, as
well as the elements for the basic blood sugar, glucose. Simple carbohydrates, in the
form of fruit, juices, and honey, are also valuable, although the simple ones in candy bars
and other sweets are "empty calories," without other nutrients. Candy bars or other such
stimulants actually deplete glycogen levels.
- A prudent diet requires neither protein supplements nor vitamin or mineral
supplements. Women athletes do need to watch their iron levels, though, and vegetarians
should consult a doctor about their special needs, such as taking B12 vitamins
- Supplements such as salt tablets, bee pollen, wheat germ, amino acids, and other
"magic-action" ingredients are generally considered unnecessary additions to a healthy
- It is important to replace sweat and other fluids by drinking large amounts of
water. (Edelson 42)
* Carbohydrate consumption and rest before an event will best replenish muscle
Prevention of Injuries
The most effective means of minimizing the complications of sports injuries is
prevention, and the first step to prevention is a complete physical examination. This is
especially important for youth and should take place even before conditioning begins.
Special attention should be paid to those areas that will be most involved in the athletic
activity, and all musculotendinous disorders or abnormalities should be noted. The
frequency and severity of many injuries may then be lessened by proper conditioning and
Proper conditioning means the development of strength, endurance, cardiovascular
fitness, power, and flexibility. It also includes the development of proper body
mechanics, forms, and agility. Lower extremity injuries can generally be lessened by
strengthening exercises. Stretching exercises can be used to avoid muscular strains.
Staying in shape during the off-season may involve running stairs and jogging in place at
Beginning any activity gradually will reduce the incidence of injury, especially
injury to the muscle-tendon unit. Stretching is especially important to avoid strain.
Flexibility is often diminished after a long period of inactivity, and stretching is
particularly important when resuming a sport. Two types of stretching exercises may be
performed. Static stretching is a slow, gradual stretching through full movement, and
holding at the position for ten to twenty seconds before relaxing. A pulling sensation, not
pain, should be felt. Ballistic stretching, which involves rapid, repetitive movements, is
also occasionally used but is generally less effective and may even cause minor muscular
tears. It is usually not recommended.(Mercier 295)
Proper habits after rigorous exercise permit muscles to cool off adequately and to
dissipate heat. After running, it is usually advised not to simply stand still or lie supine
but to walk for five to ten minutes and then rest in a sitting position. This may be
especially important for the cardiac status of the individual. If the exercise is stopped
abruptly, blood pooling can occur in the legs causing syncope, Hypertension, and
The American Red Cross defines first aid as "the immediate care given to a person
who has been injured or has suddenly been taken ill." First aid is immediate aid. Every
effort should be made to get the injured athlete to advanced care. This first aid
administrator should stabilize the victim and then arrange for transportation.
A basic understanding of self-help and home care begins with the first aid kit.
There are many places that athletes need a first aid kit- in the car, office, backpack,
bicycle, and certainly on the athletic field and in the conditioning room. While it can be
expensive to buy complete supplies for each location, the individual can purchase the
supplies in bulk and assemble them himself, thereby saving money.(Darden 116)
A well-equipped first aid kit:
Adhesive strips(Band-Aids) 70 assorted
Adhesive tape 1 in. x 10 yds.
Cotton balls 250
Elastic bandage 3 in. x 126 yds.
Roller gauze bandage 2 in. x 5 yds.
Safety pins Assorted sizes
Sterile gauze pads 15 med., 10 lge.
In the world of sports today, the field of sports medicine has grown because world
class and amateur athletes compete on higher levels than ever before. By past standards,
the demands of such intense training regimens on their bodies are incredibly punishing.
(Edelson 22) The Red Cross stated, "Most games, sports and play activities either create
or take place within a situation where forces destructive of tissue and bone are present.
Type and severity of injuries are equally varied, but wounds commonly result.
Unfortunately, the effort required to prevent accidents when people are at play often is
ignored in the quest for pleasure and personal satisfaction..."(Darden 117) Sports
physicians, trainers, coaches, nutritionists, and members of many other disciplines are
needed to help keep these athletes from exceeding their physical limits, prevent injuries,
require a balanced diet and to get them back into action soon after an injury.(Edelson 22)
As long as sports activities are a part of our daily routine, there will forever be a need for
Berger, Melvin. Sports Medicine. New York: Fitzhenry and White Side Limited, 1982.
Darden, Ellington. The Athlete's Guide To Sports Medicine. Chicago: Contemporary
Books, Inc, 1981.
Edelson, Edward. Sports Medicine. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988
Mercier, Lonnie. Practical Orthopedics. 4th ed. Toronto: Mosby-Year Book, Inc, 1995