5 Questions with Phatho Zondi, SASMA President

Dr. Phathokuhle Zondi, outgoing President of the South African Sports Medicine Association

For one of this blog’s recurring ‘columns,’ I’m pleased to have as our guest today Phathokuhle Zondi, a sports medicine physician, the CEO of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and the current president of the South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA).

I have known Phatho for two years now, and consider her a close friend as well as an esteemed colleague in the world of sports medicine.  I met her when, two years ago, I was able to attend the biennial convocation of SASMA, held in Johannesburg in 2015. She was at the time the president-elect of SASMA.  Fast forward two years, and she is completing her term, with a body of work that is culminating with the 2017 convocation.

I wanted to catch up with her on the eve of this conference to get ‘up to speed’ on the sports medicine (and sports) scene in South Africa.  In the midst of her busy life, Phatho graciously obliged.


1. CJSM: The South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA) is having its biennial convocation this October in Cape Town. I was privileged to attend the 2015 meeting in Johannesburg.  What are some of the highlights of the upcoming 2017 meeting?

PZ: We’re thrilled about the Congress this year and are confident that we will continue to raise the bar as we do every year. Some highlights include:

  • Pre- Congress Workshops – physiotherapy, Exercise is Medicine and Fieldside Emergency Care.
  • More than 15 confirmed International speakers
  • Clinical themes including
    • Paediatric Sports Medicine
    • Paralympic Medicine
    • The Female Athlete
    • Sports Specific Sessions
    • Load & Injury Management
  • Hands on Muskuloskeletal sonar course

2. CJSM: You have been the President of SASMA for the past two years, and your term is coming to an end in October. What have been some of the more memorable experiences you’ve enjoyed during your service?  What do you see as some of the challenges SASMA faces in the next two+ years?

Some major players on the S African sports medicine scene (L to R), Jon Patricios, Ross Tucker, Wayne Viljoen, Phatho Zondi

PZ: Getting to know and better understand the wider SEM community in South Africa has been particularly valuable in my journey – having deeper interactions at a Governance level with allied health professionals has improved my appreciation of the multidisciplinary team. A definite highlight has also been the various engagements I have had with students and rising stars in our field.   In the next few years, SASMA will need to formalize some of the structures within the organization in order to ensue that we continue support and meaningfully serve a growing membership.

3. CJSM: Recently you moved from Pretoria to Cape Town to become the CEO of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA). This was quite a career change for you.  What’s a typical day in the life of a CEO? Read more of this post


September — the New Issue

Has summer already gone?

The colors that are starting to highlight the leaves. and the football seasons (both soccer and gridiron) that are at full throttle, are two signals that, indeed, fall is nearly here.

And while the actual equinox does not occur for another week, we have the September CJSM — just published — to help you ease your way through this seasonal transition.

We publish six times a year, and these bimonthly events are always exciting.  A publication represents months, even years, of planning. For authors who are at last seeing their studies in print, it is especially gratifying.  The studies have been published ‘on-line first’ and listed on PubMed for months; but it’s still a wonderful thing to find your work within the glossy covers of the journal.

I’m one of those authors this month — I authored a Case Report on the most benign of clinical issues (bilateral knee pain in a runner), that took unexpected twists and turns, leading me to work up a young woman for a rare neuromuscular disorder.   As always, we have several interesting Case Reports, including one on premature physeal closure in the foot in a ballet dancer en pointe (that’s ‘not supposed to happen’!)

Dr. Gian Corrado, lead author of a study looking at screening echocardiography

The Original Research studies that are leading the charge this month are both potentially ‘game changers’ in important and controversial areas of sports medicine. They both are also currently free.The first looks at the role that point-of-care echocardiography may play in the screening of young athletes for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  This work comes from Boston Children’s Hospital and Northeastern University, and is headed by a colleague who is someone I hold in great esteem:  Gianmichel Corrado.

The second study looks at the efficacy of radial extracorporeal shock wave therapy (rESWT) in the treatment of chronic distal biceps tendinopathy, a condition which, like many tendinous injuries, can be frustratingly difficult to treat, most especially in middle-aged weekend warriors (like me).  The investigator group was comprised of people from Europe and the U.S. They used a case-control study design with 12 month followup to demonstrate that this modality can be both safe and effective in middle-aged subjects (ages 30 – 64).

There is much, much more to be found within the covers of this new issue. Take a moment right now to click on the link and see what’s in store.

Spondylolysis — when to begin PT?

SNL’s Jane Curtain and Dan Ackroyd may have found spondylolysis an interesting subject for debate!

One of the perennial ‘hot topics’ in pediatric sports medicine has to do with the diagnosis of spondylolysis — specifically, adolescent isthmic spondylolysis [an acquired stress injury of the pars interarticularis].  As with many controversies, people who treat this condition are often passionate about the specific issues under debate.

Among the more burning issues are to brace or not; what imaging modality to use (plain film, CT scan, SPECT scan, MRI); how long to ‘rest’ a patient before re-introducing a level of physical activity or instituting physical therapy (PT); and how to determine treatment success (clinical measures such as PROMs, or imaging to verify bony union of the pars interarticularis).

We recently published an original research article on the subject of when to begin PT in these athletes:  The Timing of Physical Therapy in Adolescent Athletes with Acute Spondylolysis

I am happy to report I was part of the team that conducted this study, and we found that in patients who began PT early, recovery to sport was faster:  ‘early PT’ athletes returned to their sport a mean of 25 days earlier than their counterparts who initially rested from all activity.  Moreover, there were significant differences in adverse reactions between the groups studied.

How do you approach the initiation of PT in your adolescent athletes with spondylolysis?  Take the poll and share your thoughts! 

It’s a New Year!

Lots to learn about running a better sports medicine fellowship from Dr. Irfan Asif

What’s that you say?  A ‘new year’?  But we’re months away from January 1! It’s hardly time to sing Auld Lang Syne….

However, if you are a physician in North America, a new year most definitely has begun — whether it is July 1 for most, or August 1 for the remainder, pretty much all post-graduate medical education programs begin at this time of year.  And so, if you are involved in a sports medicine fellowship in Canada or the USA, it’s time to make some New Year’s resolutions……..

Such as.  How can I make my sports medicine fellowship better?  How might I structure a regular educational feature such as journal club in such a way as to improve the educational outcomes of the people under my charge? Read more of this post

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