iHerb: The role of Ayurveda in sports medicine 

By Dr. Hiruni Poornima 


Ayurveda is the science of life. The term “Ayurveda” comprises two words; “Ayu” which means life or life span, and “Veda” which means knowledge or science.  The Ayurveda medical system aims in two directions, one is to maintain the health in healthy and the second one is to cure the diseases in diseased. 

There have been many innovations and additions to the practice of Ayurveda while preserving the principles and authenticity of the medical system. That is the beauty of Ayurveda. 

Sports medicine has become one of emerging concepts in Ayurveda medical system which will help to achieve the ultimate goal of a sports person. That ultimate goal is to maintain a good physical and mental status. 

Sports medicine is a medical system that deals with the physical fitness, treatments and prevention of injuries during a sports activity. Athletes are more prone to physical injury than non-communicable diseases. A sports injury can be defined as damage to the tissues of the body that occur as a result of a sport or an exercise. 

These types of injuries occur due to overuse of a part of the body while training for a certain activity. Since these injuries occur due to sudden impact, the body develops an inflammatory response. They may feel pain, temperature of the affected site might gradually increase, redness will occur, and finally the location will be hard to move and the pain will increase with mobility. 

If these injuries are not treated at the proper time, discomfort and limitation of movement will occur, and if an athlete ignores these minor signs and symptoms or injuries to carry on with the same physical activity and make repetitive movements, that will lead to more damage, muscle tear, ligament tear, and joint pains. 

Authentic texts of Ayurveda do not mention a specific branch that can be correlated with sports medicine, but Ayurveda texts have inherently proposed various aspects which we can relate with sports medicine or sports injury, since the Sri Lankan Ayurveda medical system comprises “Ayurveda”, “Sidda”, “Unani”, and traditional medicine of Sri Lanka. The Ayurveda aspect of sports medicine and treating sports injuries will also have a contribution from the field of traditional “Kadum Bidum”. 

The following several concepts mentioned in Ayurveda will help in describing this sport medicine and sports injuries. The first concept Ayurveda describes is about seven body tissues, “Dhatu”, which contribute to the structural and functional buildup to the body. There are body fluids: plasma, “Rasa”; blood, “Rakta”; muscles, “Mamsa”; fat, “Medas”; bone, “Asthi”; bone marrow, “Majja”; and male and female generative tissues such as ovum and sperm, “Shukra”. 

Out of these seven, muscle (Mamsa) and bones (Asthi) play a vital role in sports injuries along with other body tissues. The second concept in Ayurveda is about supporting body tissues called “Updhatu”. Among many of these supporting body tissues, mainly tissues such as ligaments, “Snayu”, and tendons, “Kandara”, will also be involved with these injuries, along with other supporting tissues. 

The next concept is about the body humours, “Dosha”. There are three “doshas” in the body: “vata”, “pitta”, and “kapha”. Out of these three “doshas”, initially the “vata dosha” will get aggravated during a physical injury or traumatic diathesis. These injuries require special attention so that the damage will not become permanent. Ayurveda treatments impart greater benefits to an athlete from activity pursuing the sport. 

Sports personnel are more susceptible towards some common injuries such as muscle cramps, shin splints, ankle sprain, shock, ligament tear, dislocation, fractures, and many more. Common traumatic injuries and sport related conditions are also mentioned in Ayurveda as well, and some of them are; inflammation in bones and joints – “Asthi thoda”, weakness – “Sadana”,  fatigue – “Srama”, dislocations or subluxation – “Sandhimukta”, fractures – “Bhagna”, acute wounds – “Sadyovrna”, wounds – “Vrna”, tendon injury – “ Kandaragata vata”, muscle cramps or muscle pain – “Mamsagata vata”, and ligament injury – “Snayugata vata”. 

These and more sports related conditions can be treated by an Ayurveda physician, and with numerous types of external and internal medications. These treatments do not only focus on pain relief and rehabilitation, but will also add more medicinal value to the body, especially the injured area. The applications and types of Ayurveda treatment in sports medicine and sports injury will be discussed in the next article. 


(The writer holds a BAMS (Hons) from the University, of Colombo, is reading for an Msc in Food and Nutrition-University of Peradeniya, and holds a Diploma in Panchakarma)