The way we perceive and experience sports in these infelicitous times is changing. From tens of thousands of delighted supporters cheering for their favorite teams, we had to become accustomed to cardboard fans, empty stadiums, and athletes bombarded with COVID-19 tests and constant virus talks. Instead of competition for medals and trophies, athletes compete to stay healthy and avoid contracting the diseases; one only needs to look at the ongoing Olympic Games to understand the prevailing climate of fear that engulfs today’s sports.
Despite such discouraging conditions, some physicians carry the sports medicine standard towards a brighter tomorrow, where patients can enjoy treatment versatility and disease prevention in a safe and secure environment. Here at Top Doctor Magazine, we are delighted to have interviewed such a sports medicine hero, one who sees and understands the challenges faced by athletes of all genders, without discrimination — Dr. Rathna Nuti. A member of numerous sports medicine associations, such as the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine (AMSSM) and the NHL Team Physician Society (NHLTPS), Dr. Nuti calls upon the forces of both family medicine and psychology to enhance her approach to sports medicine and to understand her patients, to care for the athlete and the human simultaneously.
Through Dr. Nuti’s words, we will learn today why athletes are, as she calls them, “unique individuals.” We will approach the challenges of today’s sports medicine, the newest improvements to regenerative medicine, and the hurdles thrown into the athlete’s way, all in a COVID-19 setting.
Struggling between Playing and Not Playing
“Athletes are unique individuals – they need to have a routine, a schedule; it does affect their psyche.” Constant training is the holy chalice from which every athlete has to drink consistently. However, some athletes lost that precious consistency between several months of complete lockdown (not to mention countries where lockdown measures were reinstituted) and alternating approval-interdiction patterns on sports similar to ping pong matches. As a result, they became more prone to both outdoor and home-based injuries.
Although an injury might not sound like the end of the world, a sine qua non factor for this equation is the fear factor; a contradictory feeling of avoiding physicians due to COVID-19 and willingness to see a physician face-to-face. The result: delayed visits to the doctor and a higher risk of complications. “We were seeing, even in kids, fractures that were delayed for more than two, three, even four weeks because people were so scared to go to the doctor.”
After analyzing these concerns, Dr. Nuti was ready to employ her knowledge of psychology and try to overcome the fear factor crippling her patients. “They (i.e., the patients) don’t want to do things like telemedicine. They want to actually see a physician in the office.” Understanding the patient’s human interaction needs encouraged Dr. Nuti to receive all the patients who cross her practice’s doorstep and listen to their struggles. “Sometimes patients have difficulties expressing what they truly feel, and taking that extra minute or step of saying, ‘Hey, I understand what’s going on’ plays a big role.”
Avoiding Scam Clinics
The past few years have seen the accelerated emergence of regenerative medicine alternatives, such as amniotic injection therapy, stem cells, and PRP (platelet-rich plasma). As a result, the opportunity to treat injuries in a versatile, more straightforward approach proved tempting for numerous patients. “It’s kind of cool to see how you have different options to provide for patients after a proper exam and history and consultation, that you can offer them a different treatment plan.”
However, as regenerative medicine showed more promising signs, malevolent individuals saw the chance to defraud trusting patients of their hopes and dreams with false promises. “And they get scammed into paying thousands of dollars for these types of treatment plans.” Therefore, treatments that fed such frauds, like amniotic injection therapy, were pulled off the market, and scam clinics were closed down by the authorities to prevent the encouragement of such practices.
The prevention of more fraud victims lies in our perception of regenerative medicine. However, instead of looking at regenerative medicine as the Holy Grail of medicine, we must understand its limitations. For Dr. Nuti, regenerative medicine is on the right path but far from the finish line. “I think that, when utilized appropriately and ethically, it could be a potential game-changer, especially in the way patients experience pain. […] Not to say it’s going to cure everything, because that’s definitely not my intention on saying that.”
Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes
1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year fall prey to sudden cardiac death (SCD), and although the past few decades saw a surge in SCD research and awareness, no single strategy is potent enough to prevent this condition.
“There are no preventative tests for it to be perfect,” Dr. Nuti admits, although some signs could act as red flags. “‘Hey, I’m exercising, I’m getting shortness of breath, dizziness, and I feel like my heart is racing’ or, ‘Hey, I felt like I was going to pass out when that happened.’ Those are some of the red flags where it will prompt me to think, is there something else going on?”
Once specific red flags are raised, an electrocardiogram and/or echocardiography could shed some light on the mystery. From then onwards, sports cardiologists are brought in to “see if a patient needs any further workup based on their consultation and findings.” However, regardless of care coordination and preventative care, the SCD danger looms over athletes. “[SCD] is not an easy diagnosis to make.”
“There’s always a team to support you”
Not with standing the dangers lurking in sports, such as SCD, scam clinics, and the COVID-19 virus, Dr. Nuti encourages each athlete to look past their misfortunes, keep working with medical professionals, and always, always stick to their goals. “Definitely know that you have options and keep on with your goals because there’s always a team to support you.”
Our Top Doctor Magazine team shares Dr. Nuti’s optimistic life vision and wishes her nothing but success in her future endeavors. Aside from opening up her practice last May, Dr. Nuti intends to expand into the aesthetic realm of medicine as well. For more information on Dr. Nuti’s work, make sure that you check out her website.