Mumbai: The Asian Heart Institute’s City Centre in downtown Mumbai looks more like a gym than a medical facility.
Situated on the premises of Qi Lifecare, a fitness centre catering to executives and residents, it doubles up as rehabilitation centre for people recuperating from sports injuries—evidence of the growing demand for such care across urban India.
Sports medicine has seen a steady increase over the past few years though investments, so far, have not kept pace with demand, says Dr Aashish Contractor, certification director of the American College of Sports Medicine and an Asian Heart Institute departmental head.
But many major hospitals are adding dedicated facilities, prompted by an increasingly exercising middle class and several upcoming sporting events. Some companies, too, are consulting sports doctors as they set up gyms or fitness programmes. Around New Delhi, some leading private hospitals are rushing to complete theirs before the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
Max Healthcare plans to set up two sports medicine facilities in New Delhi—one at its multispeciality hospital at Saket and the other at Safdarjung, close to the sports village. “Right now, most hospitals do cater to these injuries through separate departments, but in the next few years we do expect more dedicated facilities to emerge,” says Dr S.K.S. Marya, director, Institute of Orthopaedics, Max Healthcare, a subsidiary of Max India Ltd.
Wockhardt Hospitals India, too, has started offering sports medicine at its hospital in Bangalore and is in the process of setting up a similar facility at its hospital in Mumbai. “There is a higher momentum and a higher orientation towards an active lifestyle. So, there is no doubt that sports medicine needs to get established as a specialty,” says Vishal Bali, chief executive, Wockhardt Hospitals.
In Bangalore, more sports academies have resulted in an unprecedented need for more facilities—especially to cater to children. The development also opens opportunity for doctors who have undergone a two-year diploma course in medicine, offered by the Netaji Subash National Institute of Sports Medicine in Patiala.
Companies and hospitals have begun approaching the institute, “a ray of hope”, says senior scientific officer for sports medicine, Dr Ashok Ahuja. A few students have been hired by companies such as Infosys Technogies Ltd and Hindustan Unilever Ltd for their corporate fitness programmes.
Most of the 77 students who have been through the course since 1987, when it started, were already employed by the armed services and paramilitary forces when they enrolled; 15 have since emigrated to the UK, Australia and West Asia to work in clubs there. “Unfortunately in our country, we don’t have sports medicine centres where they can go and work. ”
Ahuja says sports medicine also has therapeutic use in the treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disorders.
At Max Healthcare, the plans for these units include facilities to handle preventive care, treatment and rehabilitation or occupational therapy aspects of sports medicine. The company will have specialized teams, including doctors trained in sports medicine, physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons. “Having a dedicated department will also enable us develop clinical research material to look at sports injuries,” says Marya.
A growing population of people with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular ailments is also likely to add to demand, as are new gated communities that boast gyms, jogging tracks and golf courses.
“Sports in India has progressed exponentially. The professional athlete as well as the recreational one needs facilities to treat injury, maintain fitness and provide nutritional and psychologic support,” says Dr Dilip Nadkarni, a Mumbai-based orthopaedic surgeon who has worked with some of the top athletes in the country.
For most hospitals, setting up these facilities makes business sense, as dedicated sports medicine units require investments of about Rs10 crore. “Sports medicine may not be a mega money spinner, but (it) can be a good revenue model,” says Nadkarni.