Battle of the Athletes – The Rise of Sports Medicine

by Izabella Andersson on February 5, 2013

Pinning down Floyd Mayweather (boxing), Tiger Woods (golf), James LeBron (basketball), Roger Federer (tennis) or David Beckham (football) to a surgeons table means business. It is not surprising that these top athletes sometimes require specialised medical care, and that they will go to great lengths to get the best treatment available. For a top athlete to be out of competitions – even just for a brief time – can be an incredible loss of income. In order to cater to these sports superstars, a relatively new field of health services is expanding: sports medicine.

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Offering a tailored approach to medical care, where the patient is first thoroughly tested through various scans and physical effort tests and possibly at a later stage for an injury, is potentially immensely profitable. Bespoke medical care tailored just for the patient by the specialist doctor, creates a realm of trust from which there is mutual benefit. Medical treatment for sports injuries is not just for top athletes or superstar footballers, however.
 
No longer constrained by borders thanks to the globalisation of markets and the mobility of patients, the possibility to create innovative, niche offerings is opened up. As an EU citizen, you can choose to get treated in your native country, or go abroad for treatment if you so wish, without having to pay a significant amount of money. Patients choose to do this when the waiting times for surgery is very long or when treatment can be done elsewhere cheaper (when it is not covered by the government / insurance).
 
Patients can go to any clinic they wish, and they increasingly choose to do so. Of course, the possibility to receive treatment as a well-paid athlete is even more global. Not restricted by the EU borders, an American athlete can choose to be treated in Qatar as well as in the USA. This opens up for the possibility of developing a profitable clinic specialised on sports medicine.
 
Thanks to the increasing demand from niche customers, specialised health care can now develop as a profitable business.

Large market for sports medicine medical care

beckhamEven though Sports Medicine is a relatively new phenomenon – it has just recently (2005) been acknowledged by the UK as a specialist field – there are millions of sports related injuries around the world each year. Getting specialised care is essential to recovery, and to prevent further damage to the body.
 
An increasing number of people are turning to sports to fight off obesity and stress.  In Scandinavia doctors prescribe sports to the patients as a remedy to their patients’ ailments. This means that a large group of previously inactive people are becoming more active and that they inevitably get hurt while training. Children practicing sports is another large group of patients. This means that the market for sports medicine is rather large, so it is not surprising to see new specialised hospitals popping up.
 
In the US, more than 2,8 million injuries amongst baby boomers in 2006 were related to sports, ranging from cuts in various body parts to sprained ankles, dislocated hips and chipped teeth. The three sports with the highest frequency of injuries are basketball, bicycling and football, together accounting for nearly 1,5 million of the injuries.

Participating in sports can also be dangerous for children

basketIn Europe, 3,5 million injuries related to sports occur in children between 5 and 14 years old. Alsoamongst this group basketball is the most dangerous sport. Out of the 3,5 million sports related injuries in children, 775,000 of these are treated in hospitals. It is therefor not surprising that IM2S (Institut Monégasque de Médicine & chirurgie Sportive) in Monaco has specialised in both sports medicine and paediatric medicine.
 
Things which set IM2S apart is the prestigious location, the personalised care (it offers 20+ private hospital rooms), a holistic approach and its concierge service. Through the concierge service, IM2S offers private sightseeing tours, English speaking VIP transport, preferential hotel rates for the family of the patients.
 
The holistic approach means that the staff at IM2S consists of not only specialised surgeons, cardiologists, and physicians, but also for example a dietician. The doctors work in various areas such as emergency trauma, osteopathy, MRI, echo doppler, growth, effort testing, isokinetic testing, rheumatology, and ultrasound. Apart from these areas, IM2S also offers paramedical services such as medical rehabilitation, diet / sports nutrition, osteopath, fasciatherapy and podiatry.
 
The Princess Grace Hospital in London, UK is another hospital which offers specialised treatment for sports injuries. Other sports medicine hospitals are popping up all over the world in order to grab a share of this lucrative and growing market: in Finland you have the Neo Clinic which is run by Dr Orava (who is the go-to-surgeon for top footballers in Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, AC Milan, and Juventus amongst others), in Switzerland you have the Schulthess Klinik in Zurich (which caters to the Olympic team), in New York you have the Hospital for Special Surgery, and in Qatar you have Aspetar Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Hospital, just to mention a few.

A different approach for global customers

Not only do these hospitals specialise in treating existing injuries, they also help athletes safely reach their potential by measuring the athletes body, for example by innovative new techniques such as exhaustive blood analysis, testing cardiac stress and the lung capacity of the patient. Prevention of injuries for top athletes is another priority of private sports hospitals. They want their patients to excel at their current sport, but also want their bodies to last them a long time.
 
By offering bespoke medical care, not only through treatment of injuries, but also through service offerings which prevent injuries and measuring the max potential of a patient, the hospitals set themselves apart from traditional hospitals. The focus is as much on prevention and on increasing the full potential of the patient, as it is on treating an existing condition or injury. The patient is well taken care of, but some of the private hospitals go beyond the patient and also offer services for the family of the patient visiting the hospital.

The future of medical care

nurseIf health care service professionals main goal is to treat patients as effectively as possible, that would mean less down-time for the patient and more prevention. This is something all hospitals could learn from. Why wait with offering medical care until it’s too late (injury has already occured), if prevention is a more effective, more patient friendly, and cheaper alternative.

Many people’s lives would improve through prevention and through tailored health service offerings, and the society would spend less money on curing expensive problems through surgery. Advocating a proactive approach to health care could turn out to be a profitable one – and not only for the private clinics.

About Izabella Andersson :

Izabella has international work experience in large and small IT businesses, specialising in website development where she developed online strategy, evaluated business models and set up and analysed web marketing campaigns.

Izabella graduated with an MBA in International Management at the International University of Monaco in June 2012. Since graduation she provides consultancy services to companies; evaluates markets in London, Monaco and other European countries, performs sweet spot analysis, defines and develops innovation and place management strategies and works on the implementation of these.

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