Monday, 29 January 2007

Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis)

An 18 yrs old club-level badminton player came with the complaints of pain in his left elbow 2 weeks ago. It was during a local competition that he started having some dull aching pain until the final mixed doubles match that he could not tolerate the pain and had to avoid smashing. His coach had warned him that he needed treatment but he complained that the clinic was too far away and needed the sleep instead.

"I told you so", said coach Lim. He did however win the match as they were a better pair. The inner part of the elbow (medial epicondyle) was really sore and the forearm flexors (in front of the arm) was also in spasm. It was as if he had only trained on smashing and nothing else for a week. I wished he did not have 'cubitus valgus' which increased the risk of developing the injuries (cubitus valgus - elbow joint with the forearm turned outward).

Nevertheless, he was quite please after I sent him to the physiotherapist for some 'muscle release'. The following day the anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxants and 2 sessions off training helped relieve the pain and swelling. He could even carry his groceries and start some 'stroke-play'. I cautioned him that if he returned too soon to normal training and failed to complete his rehabilitation exercises he would be back very soon.

rate me on

Friday, 26 January 2007

Getting a training partner

Here are some of my rules:-

1. Someone more motivated than I am to train regularly.
2. Punctual
3. Have the same routine or schedule for training
4. More or less the same physical condition
5. Not one of those who just chatter away and never do anything really during training except talk and oogle at others
6. Reads up about what to do and how to do it right
7. Not too pushy but not too a drag either
8. On the go and living life fully
9. Hygienic and dress moderately
10. Someone who will pay me to workout!!!

Can I use this drug?

A young person in his twenties came to see me one fine day for a medical problem. He then asked me whether it was true that I am also a trained Sports Physician. "Yes", I said. "How may I be of help?". He then shuffled backwards in the chair and reached out for something in his shorts. He showed me a white coloured box (rather poor quality packaging, I would say) with the words, Stanazolol staring at me. "Can I use this drug? Is it legal?"It was definitely not something approved by the Ministry of Health for normal use. Besides, it was only supposed to be sold in India for Rs 32 and he got it for 25 times the price from a gymnasium instructor. Funny, I thought I'd never had to hear of the product now that I dont deal with weightlifters are much as before. The medical fraternity never prescribed the drug unless the doctor is linked with clandestine doping activities.

Refer for the latest Prohibited list. Take note of the "Therapeutic Use Exemption" for asthmatics.

I gave him a quick description of the possible side effects and consequences of taking the drug. I advised him to also get assistance from a trained conditioning expert using scientific safe methods of 'bulking' up without the use of doping substances. Besides, without hard work there will not be any hypertrophy of the muscles!

Volunteers needed for medical coverage

If you've got time, lots of guts, determination to learn, attention to detail and love for sporting activities, you're the person we are looking for.

I am recruiting volunteers from all walks of life to assist in medical coverage of training and competition involving club, state, national or international level athletes. We would need to have the volunteer familiarise with the safety protocols and tag along with more experienced volunteers before we launch you to head your own team. You do not necessarily need medical training as we will always have trained medical staff with you. Besides, trained medical staff also needs to know how to conduct themselves during sports injury, field emergencies and evacuation. You will have the assistance of the Malaysian Association of Sports Medicine members (you are welcome to be a member too!).

I can be contacted at or 019-2103787 (before 9pm).

Thursday, 25 January 2007

No Pain No Gain?

"Jump higher! Faster! Up! Up! Up!", shouted the soccer coach. The 14 yr old boys had never trained so hard in their lives. Their quadriceps and calf muscles had been sore over the past 1 week since the new coach came. They had breaks every 20 minutes for drinks but it was often too short to even to catch their breath.

Ahmad wished he was still in the injured list so that he didnt have to 'suffer' so much. Suren noticed that his team mate was lagging behind and offered him some encouragement. "Cheer up!", he said. "At least you are booked in the massage therapist list this evening", he quipped.

"No pain No gain, men!", the coach shouted again. "When you are done with this training you'd thank me when your fitness surpasses your opponents this season", he added. The physiotherapist Zul watch in disbelief as he would have to work harder to stretch and relieve those stiffened sinews over the next few days.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Exercise 5 times a day....

"Exercise 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes", said the researcher presenting the paper. "If you lose 10% of your body weight... you will reduce the cardiovascular risk factors". Easier said then done. During every medical conference on Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease, the same sentences are repeated over and over again. But does anyone really know what it means to "exercise 5 times a week, at least 30 minutes each session"? Most of those patients hardly could walk two flights of stairs without 'huffing and puffing' and are at the risk of having a cardiac event (or heart attack) if they exercised more than a brisk walk.

We need to look at the guidelines for safe participation of such patients with coronary arterial disease or metabolic syndrome given by the American College of Sports Medicine. Such patients probably need to be adequately assessed physically before embarking on such vigourous exercise. They would probably benefit from a heart rate monitor and learn how to gauge the difficulty level of physical activity with Perceived Exertion (Borg's scale). We would also need to look into the type of medication that they are taking to ensure that they prepare for possible complications like hypoglycaemia and fractures from falls for elderly patients.

Where is the medical team?

"Where is the medical team?" Shouted the spectators in the far side of the Cheras Badminton Stadium. The officials pointed to the table where the medical team was seated. There were three doctors watching the match although only one was officially on duty. The rest of the medical team consisting of a nurse, a medical assistant, a physiotherapist, an ambulance driver and 2 students were seated just behind the doctors.

Two of my doctor colleagues immediately ran up the stairs to reach the patient. But since they were not dressed in their uniform as I was, nobody could recognise them. The crowd was not helpful. They blocked the access route to the stands just to catch a better glance at the women's doubles finals match between China and Indonesia. I didnt have much of a choice. Everyone was gesturing to me to attend to the patient although I was the last doctor standing for the competition. I had to leave my post to run after my other colleagues.

True to my suspicion. The patient was an epileptic male who was poorly controlled on medication . He just had a tonic-clonic convulsion on the stands possibly due to the hot, humid and extremely noisy environment with every spectator banging away on the sponsored plastic air-balloons. There was not much we could do but to ensure that the patient was comfortable and did not choke on his own tongue or secretions. He was slightly dazed when we got to him and it took three men to carry him up the stairs and down the stairway into the medical room. We were relieved to see that he was better. His mother was not perturbed by the incident and wanted to return to the game immediately. She was not sure what medication the son was on. Neither could she tell us more about the condition. To our surprise, she refused our offer to take the son to the nearest hospital by ambulance. I informed my colleague that we could not have the patient return to the spectator stand without risking another episode that we may not be able to manage. Finally, the patient's mother relented and took the boy home.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Right Ankle Lateral Ligament Complex Sprain

An athlete's swollen right ankle is shown in the photo above. He had twisted his ankle while landing awkwardly from a jump in the morning. It did not swell up much as he had applied RICE treatment and had it wrapped with crepe bandage. (Note: Do not massage a new ankle injury as it would worsen the swelling and pain).

I examined his ankle and found that he had a partially torn ATFL ligament and lots of soft tissue swelling in the outer part of his ankle. He also had pain when he plantarflexed or inverted his foot. There was difficulty balancing on his right ankle due to the loss of sense of position and balance (proprioception).

He was able to walk with a slight limp due to the pain but he was advised to rest from footwork or excessive walking for a few days. He was given an option to use an Aircast ankle brace to provide additional support. After applying RICE therapy for 3 days, there was only minimal swelling and he could walk normally. Although, the foot looked almost normal, he still had to undergo rehabilitation exercises to strengthen and provide the normal proprioception in his ankle. It often takes up to 4-8 weeks for rehabilitation of an ankle lateral sprain.

An athlete's day...

Fancy waking up at 6am while picking up his favourite CD to energise his day. The pain in his calf and hamstring muscles is screaming for some attention but he just did not have another 15 minutes to catch up with the much needed recovery. A quick check on the Polar Heart Rate monitor indicated that he probably still lacked recovery from the hard training over the past few days. He just couldnt wait for the weekend.

"Guys, breakfast at 6.30am and review your training log!" He was busy burying his head in the workbooks the previous night as Ms Tan (lecturer) insisted that the assisnments were complete before the week was up. The athlete had to have a quick look through the training log and started down the common bath.

The 10 minute shower was a real blessing as the powerful gush of warm water numbed the pain while allowing the pleasant blood circulation through the sinews and muscles. All the clothes had to go into the laundry to be collected after training. Had to clean up to ensure that the 5' by 4' area alloted to the athlete was spick and span in case of a surprise visit by a VIP. The cotton training jerseys have slightly faded but they were still the best in the market.

Breakfast was quick and 2 glasses of juice and water was gulped up in the process to ensure that he does not develop cramps during training. He wished he didnt have replacement classes so that he could have gone for relaxation massage earlier.

The assistant coach checked to ensure that everyone was injury free and had their specific skill training for the day after the warming up run and stretching. The sprints after that was always interesting as he would work hard to ensure that he could beat others who were supposed to be faster than him. He could last longer as he has had several years of training on endurance and speed with his previous coach in the state team.

The chief coach then called for a short briefing on the days agenda to point out the purpose of the various drills during training. He was keen on trying out new tactics with the forwards and defenders. It was often tough to follow the pace of the coach but each athlete was expected to keep trying. Drink breaks were allowed in between to ensure that the athletes were well hydrated. 2 hours was up and the chief coach had a brief chat with his assistant followed by a discussion with the team. Training was up to the mark but there was more to be done. There would be another session of training in the pool in the evening followed by a session with the team psychologist at night.