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Curse of sports injuries

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Sports injuries are so high they account for two percent of injuries that require medical treatment in the country, College of Medicine (CoM) Physiotherapy Department’s research has established.

Most athletes aggravate injuries as they do not undergo a medical before signing a contract with a club while the majority train and compete in games despite carrying injuries.

“The recent rise in organised sports participation in Malawi has led to an increase in the number of sports-related injuries among athletes.

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“Although not much is known about sports injuries in the country, one report suggested that sports injuries account for about two percent of all injuries for which medical attention is sought in Malawi,” reads part of the research’s findings.

Sports manager, Augustine Banda, CoM exercise physiologist, Enock Chisati and physiotherapist Charles Nyasa did the research around 2015.

Additionally, the department established that most footballers in Malawi play while carrying injuries due to the sports fraternity’s failure to embrace Preparticition Physical Evaluation (PPE).

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“Further, a pilot study, in which athletes were screened by fourth-year University of Malawi physiotherapy students who were on a sports clinical placement at the College of Medicine Sports Complex, revealed that 12 out of 16 (75 percent) athletes had injuries,” the report states.

“It was surprising to note that most of the injuries were sustained between the years 2007 and 2014 without proper management, and these athletes continued to play and participate in competitive games.”

PPE involves a measurement of pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, peak flow rate, fundoscopy, visual acuity, and skin measurements.

“Blood and radiographic investigations may include a full blood count, blood glucose and lipid tests, x-rays, and ultrasound scanning. The musculoskeletal screening section of PPE uses special tests to assess tone, power, coordination, reflexes, and range of motion of the limbs,” the report adds.

It further says PPE helps reduce injuries and risk factors for diseases. In Malawi, athletes do not undergo a medical before signing a contract with a team.

“This may be, among other reasons, because of financial constraints, lack of interest among Malawi’s sporting administrators, and the public’s lack of knowledge about PPE and its benefits,” the reports says.

Players and former footballers such as the late Patrick Mvula and Christopher

John Banda and Douglas Chirambo (all from Bullets) should have had their diseases detected if Malawi football had embraced PPE.

Careers of players such as Vincent Gona (formerly of Bullets) and Thoko Stambuli of

Silver Strikers have suffered due to lack of proper medical care.

“The incidence of sudden death is approximately 2.5 times higher in athletes than in non-athletes.

“Some recent reports in Malawi of the sudden deaths of elite athletes suggest that Malawian athletes participate in various sporting activities despite carrying injuries or being afflicted by potentially serious illnesses,” reads the report.

Bullets winger, Fischer Kondowe, said he was aware of CoM’s research on athletes but advised the researchers to be pro-active in pushing sports authorities to adopt PPE.

“That footballers play while carrying injuries is very true.

It is all due to insecurity and desperation as players hardly have contracts. You force yourself to play so as to earn game bonuses.

“If all Super League players underwent a medical, I doubt if more than 30 players can pass a medical. This is why our careers are short-lived,” said the veteran winger, who is probably the fittest local footballer. So far, clubs such as Bullets, Silver and Be Forward

Wanderers have signed players without subjecting them to a medical. This is attributed to lack of professionalism and resources.

But the researchers say there is no need for the local sports fraternity to shy away from PPE as it is cheap and accessible at CoM.

“The government of Malawi should formulate deliberate policies to enforce PPE as a key requirement for sports participation at the local and national levels.

“Sports administrators governing various athletic associations should enforce and encourage routine screening of athletes before training or active season,” the report concludes.

In 2015, Super League of Malawi introduced a mandatory medical scheme for all Super League players but enforcement remains a challenge with a few clubs complying.

Each club was supposed to put 30 players on the scheme and remit K64,000 per season to Medical Aid Society of Malawi, However, few clubs comply and this is yet another failed project to say the least.

The athletes continue to suffer.

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