Meet the doctors blazing new trails in sports medicine

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
From left to right: Sports Medicine Africa directors Dr Thulani Ngwenya, Dr Crosby Mulungwa, Dr Moshe Magethi and Dr Jerome Mampane.
From left to right: Sports Medicine Africa directors Dr Thulani Ngwenya, Dr Crosby Mulungwa, Dr Moshe Magethi and Dr Jerome Mampane.
Image: Sports Medicine Africa

Four doctors are blazing a trail in sports medicine and have established themselves as the go-to guys that various sporting organisations in the country rely on for expertise in athletes’ medical rehabilitation and recovery programmes.

Dr Thulani Ngwenya and Dr Crosby Mulungwa do work with the South African Football Association (Safa), while Dr Jerome Mampane and Dr Moshe Magethi are with SA Rugby.

Dr Ngwenya is Safa’s chief medical officer and will be in charge of the Cosafa Cup in Nelson Mandela Bay next month.

Dr Mulungwa is the team doctor for the national men’s Under-23 team and will accompany the side at the Tokyo Olympics next month.

Dr Mampane is a Rugby World Cup-winner with the Springboks and Dr Magethi works as the women’s national team doctor.

The four doctors have fearlessly traversed a journey that is less travelled by many like them.

They came together and combined their skills to form Sports Medicine Africa, a multi-sports entity to address the needs of a wide scope of athletes, ranging from recreational sport and exercise participants to high performance and elite athletes.

“We started individually as doctors with a view to having seen that there was a gap in the market for sports and exercise medical practitioners, specifically in the area that we are based in and also with a view that the kind of services we wanted to offer were not available in black communities,” said Dr Mampane.

Sports Medicine Africa specialises in health consultations, physiotherapy, sport pathology, ultrasound sports neurotherapy, blood testing, dietary consultation, and rehabilitation programmes.

Dr Ngwenya and Dr Mulungwa met while working for Sascoc (The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) at the Zone 5 Africa Games in Angola in 2016.

“However, we only started discussing the potential of establishing Sports Medicine Africa during the Commonwealth Games in Australia,” said Dr Ngwenya, who is popularly known as the Bafana Bafana doctor.

Dr Mampane and Dr Magethi met at a hospital they worked together at in Krugersdorp. At the time they did not know the other two doctors, Ngwenya and Mulungwa.

It was during the Craven Week in Limpopo that Mulungwa and Mampane convinced each other to join forces with the other two doctors. When the four medical men got to know each other better they decided to start their own practice.

“One thing led to another and we eventually all had a meeting together,” says Magethi, who won the Africa Cup with the national women’s rugby team and also works with Mampane at the Lions Rugby Union.

The vision, said Magethi, is to provide quality medical care not just to elite athletes but also to ordinary people involved in some exercise and sport.

“We want to provide quality care to those who can’t really afford it,” he said.

Sports medicine is a costly practice that many black people have found tough to navigate due to historical barriers, some that still exist today.

“It is quite expensive to put together a sports medicine clinic,” Ngwenya said.

“At the moment we have used our own resources. It is very difficult to reach our immediate goal, which is to build a huge sports high performance centre in the heart of Soweto.

“We are hoping to get partners and insurance to assist, so that maybe we will be able to offer our services at a very minimal fee to consult to our communities.”

Mulungwa said they had to put together all their combined resources to start the business.

“To have a sports medicine clinic is not an easy task,” he said.

Mulungwa said their aim was to have a multidisciplinary sports clinic where they could offer a full range of services.

“We want a setting where all the services are offered inside the same building. That is our goal,” said Dr Mulungwa.

“To do that, Sports Medicine Africa as an organisation, we need assistance. We also have to grow the organisation to all the provinces.”

The organisation does extensive work with the Limpopo Academy of Sports, which is nurturing talent from previously disadvantaged communities. The academy, said Mulungwa, is nurturing talent from rural areas who don’t know anything about sports medicine.

“We are talking about athletes who don’t know anything about seeing a doctor.

“These are the athletes who are receiving medical attention regularly through Sports Medicine Africa.”

The organisation also counts the sports-mad University of Johannesburg as one of its clients.

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