Sports and Ayurveda

Sports medicine is an interdisciplinary subspecialty of medicine which deals with the overall care of an athlete at all levels. The sports medical "team" includes specialty physicians and surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists, coaches, other personnel and the athlete. Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of India aimed at prevention and cure of illness. It is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the World and as much as 80 % of the population in India utilizes this form of medicine at some point of time.   

Sports Medicine function is not only curative and rehabilitative, but also preventative, which is the most important one of all. There is much more to sports medicine than just musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment. Illness or injury in sport can be caused by many factors – from environmental to physiological and psychological. Consequently, sports medicine can encompass a range of specialties; including cardiology, pulmonology, orthopedic surgery, psychiatry, exercise physiology, biomechanics and traumatology. 

Ayurveda as Sports Medicine:

Sports medicine, as a separate medical specialty has a fairly recent origin and it is quite relevant to ask how a medical system, that is more than five thousand years old, can make any contribution in this field:

  • Role of Ayurveda in the selection of the athlete: Any body can be an athlete.  But if one need to outperform there are certain features narrated in Ayurvedic texts these are:

a.      Prakruti (constitution of the body): The physical fitness and performance are highly influenced by the constitution of the body. Accordingly the human race can be classified into Vata, Pitta and Kapha and their combinations. These remain unchanged till the death of the individual. These get decided at the time of fertilization. Similarly now a day it is believed that there are certain somatotypes Endomorph, Mesomorph & Ectomorph.

Accordingly each person is born with this inbuilt and unchangeable Prakruti.  Depending upon the event a Vata Prakruti person can be a better athlete than a Kapha Prakruti person.  Similarly a person specializing in chess should be Kapha predominant person.

b.      Sara: There are seven Dhatus in our body. The term Sara means the essence.  Depending upon the dominance of the Dhatus individuals are divided into Tvak Sara, Rakta Sara, Mamsa Sara, Medo Sara, Asthi Sara*, Majja Sara*, Shukra Sara and Satva Sara /Oja Sara.

Among these the Asthi Sara and Majja Sara individuals can perform well in out door events. It is interesting to note that Arnold gives a grouping very similar to this physical type.

In Asthi Sara: Bones are strong, prominent joints at heels, ankles, elbows; shoulders chin thick nails prominent teeth.  They posses high energy and are addicted to actions.  They are capable of bearing pain and fatigue.  Their body will be slim but strong and firm.  They are best suitable for hard physical activities, sports and war. 

Majja Sara: Majja Sara is with small body and having good endurance, strong bones and joints. They are oily in complexion and are very energetic. They are endowed with good physical stamina, power, knowledge, and demand dignity and respect. 

  • Ayurvedic recipe for sports people: Three primary factors that influence athletic performance are genetic endowement, state of training and nutrition (physical as well as psychological). Even though good diet cannot guarantee success, poor diet can certainly undermine training.  Ayurveda gives comprehensive description of food substances that can increase muscle mass and physical prowess.  Food should be taken according to eight factors such as nature of food, processing of food, combination, quantity, place, time, dietetic rules, constitution, and combination.
  • Vyayama Shakti: It is the capacity to perform physical exercise. The physical fitness is influenced by many factors such as age, Sara, Ahara, mental stability. So on so forth the challenges faced by a modern sports person are not just musculo-skeletal but it also includes physical, physiological psychological social, economical, environmental stresses.  Ayurveda aims at the preventive, promotive, curative corrective and rehabilitative aspects of a sportsman.
  • Natural performance enhancing agents: One of the most exiting prospect that needs immediate exploration is the drugs (of pure herbal origin) mentioned for enhancing the physical prowess of a person. These were apparently widely used in ancient times by warriors to enhance their performance during war and from getting tired easily. All the Ayurveda scholars have mentioned Brimhaneeya dasaimani (Muscle builder), Jeevaneeya Dasaimani (Vitiliser) Balakara Dasaimani(Promotes strength) and Sramahara dasaimani ( Promotes cheer). These herbs can definitely enhance the performance level. These drugs are non-steroidal and act by increasing the secretion of the biological hormones and enzymes.     
  • Daily Routine: A concept that is quite unique to Ayurveda is the concept of Daily and Seasonal regimen mentioned very elaborately to promote a healthy living. This regimen is quite exhaustive, giving very fine details like:

a.      When a person should get up in the morning. 

b.      The necessary activities to be done in a day. 

c.      The amount of exercise he should perform. 

d.      The type of food he should consume in a particular season. 

e.      Seasonal purificatory therapies to be performed to detoxify the body periodically.  

f.       To avoid incompatible food stuffs

g.      Sleep

h.      Celibacy

 Preparing for the big event: Ayurveda has also mentioned certain rituals that a person who is about to go for a combat should undergo from a fortnight prior.   They include staying alone in a lonely place.  The person will be allowed to interact only with his trainer and not even his nearest relatives.  He will be fed with a peculiar prescribed diet. These special diets could be introduced for sports person before any major event to naturally boost his performance.

  • Calmness of mind: Besides strength; calmness of mind is also a must for a good performance in a sports event. Ayurveda recommends taking few sessions of Shirodhara for this purpose.
  • Marma and sports medicine: Injuries in the sports are increasing with the popularization of sports of all types. Marmas are some vital and most sensitive points of the body. Any injury to these points results in very disturbing consequences. So a good care should be taken of these points.
  • The approach in Ayurveda is wholistic, where in it combines treatment modalities with Yoga, Pranayama etc to have a profound impact on not just the physical problems but the much more important psyche of the sportsperson. It can effectively work towards stress relieving and in developing concentration. 
  • Ayurveda for off season and for early recovery: Also, there are rejuvenative treatment modalities which a sports person could undergo during his off season, which can prepare him to efficiently handle the physical and mental stress involved in competitive sports. 
  • Therapeutic Ayurveda for sports person: It is a routine thing for a sports person to have different injuries. Therapeutic Ayurveda will benefit a sports fellow in following health problems:
  •  Knee Injuries and Recovery (knee pain, ACL TeaR, quadriceps tendon inflammation, medial menisci injury, articular cartilage injuries, ligament injuries, patellar pain, repeated dislocations)
  •  Shoulder Injuries(rotator cuff injury, dislocations, inflammation of biceps, shoulder pain, clavicle fracture)
  •  Back Injuries (lower back pain, sciatica, lumbago .scoliosis, muscle strain, slip disc)
  •  Hip & Thigh Injuries ( groin strain, hip bursitis, hamstring and quadriceps injuries)
  •  Ankle & Foot Injuries (plantar fasciitis, heal pain, metatarsal fractures, Achilles pain, broken ankle, sprained ankle)
  •  Neck Injuries (neck pain, neck stiffness, restricted movements)
  •  Calf & Shin Injuries (calf pain, muscular cramps)
  •  Arm & Elbow Injuries(tennis elbow, golfers elbow)
  • Thumb & Wrist Injuries (carpel tunnel syndrome, wrist bursitis, metacarpal fractures)
  •  Head injuries
  • Muscular rejuvenation
  •  Logical and mind boosters

Ayurveda is very effective remedies that can either be used principally or as a supportive therapy in numerous orthopedic problems encountered by sports persons. Ayurveda has very simple herbal formulations that can speed up the process of healing after a surgery, rehabilitation of an injured muscle, bone, performance levels.    

Thus we find that Ayurveda is the best option to be adopted as Sports Medicine.