Please tell us about yourself

He sits ramrod straight, yet relaxed on the couch to examine his patients. Ask him whose idea it was to start a centre for sports medicine, 48-year-old Dr Kannan Pugazhendi points to his wife Sujatha, who occupies a swivel chair in the room. “Entirely hers,” he adds for emphasis.

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An athlete who participated in 400-metre track events and played basketball, Kannan kept his interest in sports alive even after completing his MBBS from the Madras Medical College. He helped athletes and sportsmen overcome their injuries and deal with fitness problems while at the YMCA in Chennai. He was instrumental in setting up the Fitness Foundation Academy at the YMCA.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?

But his big break as a sports physician came when he was selected to accompany the Indian cricket team to the West Indies in 1989. For this, he acknowledges the role of the then team manager S. Venkataraghavan, who suggested his name to the cricket administration.

Then on there was no looking back. Kannan accompanied the Indian hockey team to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and then for the World Cup hockey tournament in 2002.

What did you study?

Kannan points out that there was hardly anything known about treating sports injuries, while he was in medical college. Most often, sportsmen were referred to regular specialists. “I realised sports medicine is not just about sports injuries, which is just one component. There is a major chunk of sports medicine which deals with exercise prescription and maintenance of health for the regular population,” says Kannan. He recalls reading up books on sports medicine and injuries. He also obtained a post-graduate qualification in sports medicine from Australia.

But why did he choose to concentrate on sports medicine after obtaining his medical degree? “I was an athlete and a sportsman. That passion to continue the sport and the obsession with medicine was the ideal combination that I could bring about,” he says.