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Sports Physicians


The field of sports medicine, and nearly all the careers related to it, owes its foundation to experiments and studies conducted by Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, and √Čtienne-Jules Marey. Aristotle's treatise on the gaits of humans and animals established the beginning of biomechanics. In one experiment, he used the sun as a transducer to illustrate how a person, when walking in a straight line, actually throws a shadow that produces not a correspondingly straight line, but a zigzag line. Leonardo da Vinci's forays into the range and type of human motion explored a number of questions, including grade locomotion, wind resistance on the body, the projection of the center of gravity onto a base of support, and stepping and standing studies.

However it was Marey, a French physiologist, who created much more advanced devices to study human motion. In fact, sports medicine and modern cinematography both claim him as the father of their respective fields. Marey built the first force platform, a device that was able to visualize the forces between the foot and the floor. English photographer Eadweard Muybridge's serial photographs of a horse in motion inspired Marey's invention of the chronophotograph. In contrast to Muybridge's consecutive frames, taken by several cameras, Marey's pictures with the chronophotograph superimposed the stages of action onto a single photograph; in essence, giving form to motion. By 1892, Marey had made primitive motion pictures, but his efforts were quickly eclipsed by those of film pioneers Louis and Auguste Lumière.

Following both World Wars I and II, Marey's and others scientists' experiments with motion would combine with medicine's need to heal and/or completely replace the limbs of war veterans. To provide an amputee with a prosthetic device that would come as close as possible to replicating the movement and functional value of a real limb, scientists and doctors began to work together at understanding the range of motion peculiar to the human body.

Sports can be categorized according to the kinds of movements used. Each individual sport uses a unique combination of basic motions, including walking, running, jumping, kicking, and throwing. These basic motions have all been rigidly defined for scientific study so that injuries related to these motions can be better understood and treated. For example, sports that place heavy demands on one part of an athlete's body may overload that part and produce an injury, such as "tennis elbow" and "swimmer's shoulder." Baseball, on the other hand, is a throwing sport and certain injuries from overuse of the shoulder and elbow are expected. Athletes who play volleyball or golf also use some variation of the throwing motion, and therefore also sustain injuries to their shoulders and elbows.

Today, sports medicine concentrates on the treatment and prevention of injuries sustained while participating in sports. Sports medicine is not a single career but a group of careers that is concerned with the health of the athlete. For its specific purposes, the field of sports medicine defines athlete as both the amateur athlete who exercises for health and recreation, and the elite athlete who is involved in sports at the collegiate, Olympic, or professional level. Sports physicians treat people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities.

Among the professions in the field of sports medicine are the trainer, physical therapist, physiologist, biomechanical engineer, nutritionist, psychologist, and physician. In addition, the field of sports medicine also encompasses the work of those who conduct research to determine the causes of sports injuries. Discoveries made by researchers in sports medicine have spread from orthopedics to almost every branch of medicine.

Arthroscopic surgery falls into this category. It was developed by orthopedic surgeons to see and operate on skeletal joints without a large open incision. The arthroscope itself is a slender cylinder with a series of lenses that transmit the image from the joint to the eye. The lens system is surrounded by glass fibers designed to transfer light from an external source to the joint. Inserted into the joint through one small, dime- to quarter-sized incision, the arthroscope functions as the surgeon's "eyes" to allow pinpoint accuracy when operating. The surgical elements, themselves, are inserted through other small incisions nearby. In the 1970s, only a few surgeons used the techniques of arthroscopy and did so as an exploratory measure to determine whether or not traditional surgery had a good chance of succeeding. Today, arthroscopy is the most commonly performed orthopedic surgery performed in the United States; instead of being an exploratory procedure, 80 percent of all arthroscopic surgeries are performed to repair tissue damage.

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