Active Approach To Health

By Dr. Benjamin Chun
Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - July 14, 2010
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Dr. Benjamin Chun
Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Program

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I graduated from Iolani High School and then attended the University of Washington in Seattle. I completed my family medicine residency in Sacramento and a sports medicine fellowship at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. I am board certified in family medicine and sports medicine.

How long have you been practicing?

I’ve been at Kaiser Permanente since 2007.

Why did you decide to further your training in sports medicine?

The preventive-health aspect of sports medicine has always appealed to me. Exercise and an active lifestyle are critical components to maintaining one’s health. Through my sports medicine practice, I am able to assist people with those injuries or conditions that interfere with or limit their ability to participate in athletic and fitness activities, and therefore help them to stay healthy.

Are there more men coming in with sports-related injuries?

With so many natural resources, Hawaii is a very active community. While sports participation may have historically been a male-dominated endeavor, women and men are now equally represented in most athletic settings. In addition, there are a large number of people who regularly participate in recreational activities such as hiking, walking, diving, sailing and martial arts. One doesn’t have to be on a team or in the gym to be an athlete!

Dr. Benjamin Chun examines Jon Dorado’s shoulder

Are there injuries that affect one gender more than the other?

Injuries tend to vary depending on the type of sports participation. Women are now participating in a greater number in sports such as wrestling and mixed martial arts, and we now see more injuries associated with those sports in the female population.

Some injuries do occur more frequently in women. For example, women runners tend to develop pain behind their kneecaps (runner’s knee) more frequently than men. Non-contact ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries also occur more frequently in women.

We do tend to see a higher incidence of shoulder injuries related to throwing in the male population. Much of this is secondary to the different forces related to the overhand throw in baseball versus the softball pitching motion.

It is important to recognize that injury patterns also vary depending on the age of the athlete. Young athletes, who are actively growing, have a high frequency of overuse injuries, while high school and college-age athletes are more likely to sustain acute traumatic injuries moving at higher speeds and experiencing higher collision forces in sports like football and soccer. Senior athletes often need to deal with degenerative joint conditions such as knee osteoarthritis.

You mentioned age. Can you talk about what adults should be doing to prevent injuries as they get older?

Older adults tend to have less time to participate in sports and activities, so there’s not much time to consistently train. Often they will be very aggressive with their sport or exercise participation on weekends, and that tends to lead to overuse injuries (i.e. the weekend warrior). We advocate a focus on a consistent, regular training program to provide the fitness and conditioning required to perform at the best level and to prevent injury. Making exercise, even a couple of brisk walks a day, a regular part of our lifestyle will be a tremendous benefit to our health and well-being. Arthritis of the knees and hips occurs in many patients with age, and may require older athletes to modify their exercise to non-impact activities such swimming and cycling.

Can you talk about physical activity and how that plays a role in overall health?

It is very interesting that our sports medicine patients, regardless of their age, tend to be healthier in general than the rest of the population. We regularly see people in their 70s who have no medical problems and require no medications other than a daily aspirin, and probably a lot of that has to do with the fact that they have been more consistently physically active than their peers.

The bottom line is that the more active you are and the more fit you are, the healthier and hopefully happier you will be.

What are some tips that you offer patients to begin incorporating exercise and activity regularly?

If someone has not been exercising at all, then we always recommend that they see their physician before starting any new sport or exercise program. We need to ensure that their overall health is fine and that they do not have any risk factors for training or need any modifications based on their medical conditions. So it’s always a good idea to start with a health assessment. Then the general rule is to pick an activity or sport that they really enjoy so that they’ll stick with it. And then it’s starting slowly and gradually increasing the volume and intensity to give their body a chance to adapt and to build up their conditioning and fitness. If they run into any barriers to achieving their goals, then that is what we are here to help with.

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