Guest Post: The First Sport Injuries in the History of Medicine

Sport injuries are a frequent problem both professional and amateur athletes are faced with. With the development of medicine, people have always tried to deal with these injuries in the most effective way, so that they leave no permanent consequences on the athlete’s health and that the athlete can return to their regular exercise routine as soon as possible. But what were some of the first sport injuries? In order to learn about the first registered sport injuries in the history of medical science, one should look to historical writings dating back to ancient Greece. Here are some interesting historical facts regarding this topic.

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The ancient Greek games

The Greeks and their sport games have contributed to today’s professional sports and sports medicine more than we realize. In fact, they were the first ones to introduce trainers to the world of sport. At the time, their job was to rub and massage athletes’ joints and muscles in order to relieve them of pain or to improve their efficiency. Also, it is believed that the father of sports medicine is one Herodicus of Megara, also a Greek, a physician who focused on athletes and how their health and performance were influenced by their diet and the amount of physical activity they engaged in. All of this goes to say that the Greeks held their games and their athletes in high regard, and that they were extremely popular among general population. Considering that these athletes didn’t compete for a material gain, the main objective of the entire competition was to reach fame and honor through victory. However, in order to win, these athletes also had to be prepared to get hurt in the process. Namely, the athletic events that took place in the ancient Greek games were divided into two separate categories – the light and heavy sports. The light sports included different races, jumps and runs, while the heavy ones, during which most athletic injuries actually occurred, were wrestling, boxing, discus and pancratium.

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This was considered one of the most popular sports, which revolved around fighting without weapons. There were two types of wrestling. The standing wrestling was the type where the athletes stood upright while fighting the winner was the competitor who threw his opponent to the ground three times. The goal of ground wrestling was to force your opponent to give up the fight by raising his hand. Both types were very painful and extremely dangerous. Even Homer mentions wrestling as such, describing in his poems the cold sweat, heavy bruising and bleeding of the wrestlers. And even though there were some restrictions to the moves allowed, they weren’t enough to protect the athletes from strikes and grips which could lead to serious injuries and even death. The ancient Greek writings mention dislocation of the vertebrae, crushed fingers, as well as twisted, deformed and broken extremities. And while today some of these injuries can be tended to easily, sometimes by doing something as simple as getting a home doctor visit, the ancient Greeks had different healing methods, some of which relied on prayers, offerings to the gods or sleeping in the proximity of a temple. To be fair, the Greeks actually possessed significant knowledge of spine anatomy and orthopedics, meaning that many fractures and dislocations were treated similarly to what we have today.


The other heavy sports

Much like wrestling, the other three heavy sports were also very ferocious and with a high risk of all sorts of injuries. For example, pancratium was a combination of boxing and wrestling, which allowed for boxing grips, along with free blows with both hands and legs. Not only did it combine the moves of boxing and wrestling, but their injuries as well. Frequent dislocations of knees and ankles, and even broken toes were mentioned, as well as heavy blows to the head and kicks to the abdomen, which were at times so painful that the athlete would lose consciousness. When it comes to boxing, there exist some descriptions of injuries to the entire body which left the athletes with broken ribs, bleeding noses, deformed faces, swollen eyes and even their ears ripped to some extent. Many of them lost the majority of their teeth during their fights, and some even died after heavy blows to their head, or in some cases their thorax. Finally, the throwing of the discus caused some injuries, too. Although this discipline didn’t involve direct contact between athletes, it caused more deaths than any other discipline, which is mostly due to missed throws which hit other athletes or, in some cases, the audience members.

Although some things have changed and there are now stricter rules to the sports described above, the injuries have pretty much stayed the same. So, it appears that history indeed repeats itself.

Author Bio:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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