4th UJ Sport Conference explores the synergy of sports and medicine

This symbiotic relationship between sports and medicine formed the crux of conversations between researchers, sports athletes and students, coaches as well as medical experts during the 4th University of Johannesburg (UJ) Sport Conference held on Tuesday, 31 October and Wednesday, 01 November 2023.

Over the years, the practical integration of sports and medicine has evolved athlete performance and rehabilitation with the use of science in the sports sector.

Conference theme: A multi-disciplinary approach

The theme for the conference, “Integrating Science and Practice: A Multi-disciplinary Approach to Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation, and Performance Enhancement”, put key focus on subjects including identifying gaps and challenges in multi-disciplinary approaches; sharing best practices and evidence-based approaches; and medical care and performance enhancement for women’s sports.

“The conference sought to explore the potential benefits and challenges of integrating various disciplines to optimise athlete care, recovery, and performance. The conference aims to provide a platform for professionals from various disciplines to collaborate and share their expertise. We aim to enhance the collective understanding and approaches to sports medicine, rehabilitation and management,” said Ms Marianne Viljoen, Senior Manager: UJ Sport Athlete Support Unit

Insights from prominent medical professionals

Sport Physician Dr Dhavina Naidoo delivered the keynote address on the first day, titled “Elevating excellence: a multi-disciplinary approach to medical care and performance enhancement in women’s sports – Insights, personal perspectives, and sport-specific strategies.”

In the eight clusters of the conference, panellists delved into sub-themes including Women in sports medicine, rehabilitation and performance enhancement.

Chief Medical Officer at South African Football Association (SAFA), Dr Thulani Ngwenya, delivered an in-depth presentation on “Ethical considerations in sports medicine and performance enhancement.”

Dr Ngwenya said professional sports medics have a duty to improve the quality of sports by refining their knowledge and adopting the use of digital technologies as well as following modern ethics.

“There are a number of things that sports doctors need to consider at all levels of sports. It is important that as sports medical professionals we guide our athletes and coaches properly when it comes to matters that affect their lives and sports when stakes are high.”

He added: “For instance, when an athlete in contact sport suffers a concussion, a doctor has the duty to override a coach or athlete’s decision to continue playing whether the team is playing a World Cup final or just a league match. Ethical Considerations in Sports are premised on confidentiality, informed consent, balancing health with desire to compete, conflict of interest, fairness, performance enhancing substances and the duty to report.”

UJ registered dietitian and sport scientist Dr Amanda Claasen-Smithers echoed Dr Ngwenya’s sentiments on the use of supplements for enhancing athletes’ performances.

“Your diet is the most effective way to get nutritious food to improve performance and fitness levels. There is a need to change the mindset that supplements are the only way to gain fitness levels and improve performance. Sport codes are regulated. As such, some athletes find themselves on the wrong side of the law and face bans and other penalties because they did not consider the ethics behind the use of certain supplements.”

The second day of the conference continued on with further discussions on optimising performance and wellbeing in paralympic athletes among other topics.

Speakers shared experiences on the service provided at different Olympic and Paralympic Games. Chiropractor, Dr Brad Sandler highlighted the role that sports medics play in helping athletes perform at their optimum levels, as well as the difficulties they endured in learning to help some Paralympians who needed medical assistance and preparation for big moments during the games.

Dr Candice MacMillan and Ms Simone Ferreira shared presentations on “Advancements in injury prevention strategies: From laboratory to the field.”

In this cluster, Dr MacMillan said that correcting the little technical movements make a big difference in various forms. She was highlighting the importance of the availability of sports scientists and physicians in athletes’ training and competitions.

The conference also featured medical industry experts from national sports teams, including Rugby World Cup winning player RG Snyman, Springboks medical doctor Dr Jerome Mampane and Springboks physiotherapist Mr Aneurin Robyn as well as sport physician Dr Moshe Magathi, among other panellists.

Watch the conference here: https://www.facebook.com/UJLibrary/videos/669358538632597/?mibextid=zDhOQc

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