Centre for Sports Science, ChennaiJanuary 14, 2019
India’s ace rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal was the best bet for the country to qualify for the semifinals in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. His beginning in the quarter-finals of the men’s single sculls was strong. He kept a steady pace, maintaining the second position in most part of the race. But then gradually slowed down to lose his chance of advancing, and finished fourth, just behind the last qualifier. Again in 2018, Bhokanal had another forgettable show in the Asian Games when he failed to complete the men’s single sculls, though he commenced strong.
This is typically the case with many Indian athletes, who are mostly not trained to maintain and optimise their energy levels with the best control on body movements all through the race. Naturally. that causes them to lose the last milliseconds that separates the gold and the silver. On the other hand, sportsmen from winning countries are used to the concept of sports science that makes them fully prepared for enhancing the performance scientifically.
As the difference between winning and losing is getting slimmer and slimmer in today’s competitive sports, the role of sports science is becoming critical. In this context, what India lacked was a clear understanding of this concept and, certainly, a competent facility to assess the strengths and weaknesses of its sportsmen and help them perform at their best through scientific training. Making things worse for Indian athletes, there weren’t even good facilities in the country that practised sports medicine to train them to avoid injuries and recover when injured, forcing them to look for a few centres abroad that cost them a fortune.
Reversing the trend
“Though India has been scoring the world’s best in many areas, including science, software and space, it has failed to make a mark in world sports so far. This is not because it lacked talent, but due to its unscientific approach,” says Dr S Arumugam, an orthopaedic surgeon and an avid rower, who has been trying to reverse the trend.
Dr Arumugam set up the country’s first fully integrated centre of sports science, research and training, making Chennai a hub for world athletes. The Centre of Sports Science (CSS) at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College (SRMC) campus at Porur is currently a regular hang-out for several sports celebrities, including Bhokanal, from India and abroad.
“As a consultant arthroscopy surgeon, I have been attending to injured athletes at sports medicine speciality centres across the globe and as a passionate rower myself, I knew very much what our country lacked,” said Dr Arumugam, in a recent interview with Future Medicine.
The idea for developing such a specialised facility for sports testing and training in India materialised when Prof. Tim Noakes of the University of Cape Town visited India four years ago, added Dr Arumugam,
who has specialised in both medicine and surgery with American Board Diplomate in Internal Medicine and M.S degree in Orthopaedics. He has also received an Honorary FRCS award from the Royal College of Surgeons.
SRMC and University of Cape Town, which runs one of the world’s best sports science centre, has signed an academic and research collaboration for this unique centre in Chennai. Commissioned in 2014, CSS aims at nurturing sports and physical activity among Indian sportspersons and aspirants to enhance their performance and health through specialised educational, research and training modules. As a research hub, it also focuses on exercise science and
sports medicine, and on disseminating and applying the knowledge
through its services.
“This will, in turn, help spread the knowledge of sports medicine in the country and also advance the sports-related medical care to athletes through research and best-in-class services to our athletes at a fraction of the cost of foreign centres,” added Arumugam.
But he laments that the concept hasn’t fully got into the conventional mindset here.
The 1.6 lakh square feet centre, which was conceived and designed on the lines of one of the world’s best sports science centres — the University of Cape Town, has all the necessary infrastructure and international expertise needed for grooming the athletes.
According to Dr. K A Thiagarajan, a sports medicine specialist at CSS, the centre currently offers a host of multidisciplinary services to sportspersons through a team of professionals and international experts in various areas like sports medicine, physiotherapy, biokinetics, biomechanics, nutrition and sports psychology.
Since the centre is located alongside Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre and Hospital, which offers medical care such as minimally invasive arthroscopy surgery for sportspersons, rehabilitation of injured athletes is provided by an expert team led by Prof Arumugam himself.
Besides, the infrastructure includes exercise physiology labs, an isokinetic testing and training lab, a bio-mechanical lab, a sports rehabilitation unit with physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, a multi-sports testing and training hall, a high performance centre, a fitness centre with an indoor running track, an indoor swimming pool, a sport shooting facility with 10m, 25m and 50m ranges, a video and game analysis room, a sports cafeteria, a turf sport ground, boarding and lodging facilities, specialist consultation suites, board rooms, classrooms, a library, a sports museum, an environmental chamber and a large aerobics and yoga hall.
Education in sports medicine
CSS, as a part of SRMC Hospital, has also conceptualised and developed a two-year postgraduate degree programme in sports medicine — MD Sports Medicine, adhering to the curriculum of leading universities worldwide. It was the first of its kind in the country, which was recently approved by Medical Council of India.
Recently, the centre has initiated an undergraduate course — B.Sc. Sports and Exercise Sciences – in academic collaboration with the University of Cape Town, and is currently planning a few more allied courses in the field of sports science, including Sports Nutrition, Sports Physiotherapy, Biokinetics, Sports Psychology and Biomechanics as two-year master programmes.
“We are also planning to introduce programmes for practising clinicians and sports medicine graduates to specialise on various disciplines in sports science. This will not only help them seek opportunities in this emerging field, but also create better awareness on such subjects among the medical fraternity,” said Dr Arumugam.
“Coaches and trainers play a crucial role in building and shaping the career of any sportsperson. A thorough knowledge of the basics of sports sciences and an understanding of the principles behind modern scientific training of players will be a huge advantage for them,” he said, adding that CSS is now partnering with Exercise & Training Academy (ETA), Cape Town, for providing education and training certification for coaches and trainers. This will indirectly but definitely help the athletes, he added.
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