WHETHER RECREATIONAL OR competitive, doing sports involves risks of injury. But this can be easily prevented, if precautions are taken, says Dr. Vejayan Rajoo, an orthopedic surgeon at Gleneagles Penang. “Some of the more common ones I’ve come across are those relating to the knee, mainly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, known also as a ligament tear; and meniscus tear which refers to injuries on a specific piece of cartilage that provides cushioning between our thighbone and shinbone.”
In the case of a ligament tear, a surgery would be required for its reconstruction, either by using a substitute acquired from a donor or from the patient’s hamstrings or patellar tendon, which allows for self-healing. As with most surgical procedures, infections must be watched out for. “This is a direct result of openly exposing the wound. But by using the keyhole surgical method in which interior access of the body is made through a small incision, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced.”
Most sport injuries are the result of an imbalance in muscle development, which in itself is caused by an accumulation of smaller injuries.
During the surgery, a thin rod – known as an endoscope – is fitted with a telescopic lens, light source and a camera is passed through the small incision in the skin, giving doctors a magnified view of the inside of the body. Surgical instruments can also be passed through the incision, allowing surgeons to operate, and effectively remove the need for open surgery.1
“Post-surgery, extra precautions need to be taken. This is crucial because the reconstructed ligament is healing, and the risk of inflicting a similar injury a second time is at its highest,” explains Vejayan. “Patients will find their knee to be rather stiff and relatively weaker after the surgical procedure; and most will require supportive equipment like crutches to move around.” In ensuring a smooth recovery process without post-surgery complications, rehabilitation is vital. Ideally, patients will have to undergo physiotherapy for a period of three to four months, until they have fully regained the function of their knee to resume their active lifestyle.
Dr. Vejayan Rajoo, orthopedic surgeon at Gleneagles Penang. Photo: Gleneagles Penang.
Most sport injuries are the result of an imbalance in muscle development, which in itself is caused by an accumulation of smaller injuries, says Vejayan. “If one muscle is weaker than the other, this is indicative of an imbalanced muscle structure which can easily lead to more serious injuries. But preventative measures in the form of doing proper stretches prior to exercising, practicing muscle-strengthening exercises, as well as ensuring that minor injuries and traumas are treated properly can greatly reduce the risk.”
In sport injury prevention, body mass must also be paid equal attention to. “An overweight person is more susceptible to injuries during exercise compared to one with a balanced body mass. A good and balanced diet is able to supply the necessary amount of essential nutrients required for a strong and resilient body. And unless you’re a professional athlete, there is no need to spend so much money on supplements since we are not living in a country with a severely malnourished population and lacking in basic food supplies.”
Vejayan also raised an interesting point: it is scientifically proven that women, more than men, are more likely to sustain sport injuries. “Taking into account the type of sports women play, it might be uncommon for women athletes to sustain ligament injuries. If she is a footballer, however, then she doubles the risk of tearing her ligaments because of the difference in her physique.”
Sport injuries vary from country to country. In Malaysia football, futsal and badminton enjoy massive popularity, “which is why I see so many knee injuries as a result,” jokes Vejayan. Last but not least, the good doctor also advises that any form of injury – big or small – inflicted on our body should be given proper medical attention. Based on his experience, most patients would only consult him after having previously visited a general practitioner or their local traditional masseuse, and realising after a while that their injuries had actually worsened!