Paris Olympics: Meet Dr Pardiwala, the celeb surgeon in charge of Indian contingent

Mental conditioning, sleep to be two key focus areas at the Games Village, he says

Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala (right) with wrestler Vinesh Phogat (photo: NH)
Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala (right) with wrestler Vinesh Phogat (photo: NH)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala, the renowned orthopaedic surgeon from Mumbai, is no stranger to the average Indian sports fan. Rishabh Pant, the Indian wicketkeeper whose recovery from the near-fatal car crash is now the stuff of folklore, had undergone an emergency ligament surgery by him in early 2023, while his list of patients reads like a Who’s Who of Indian sport.

From Sachin Tendulkar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja to Mahendra Singh Dhoni - who had undergone a keyhole surgery by Dr Pardiwala after winning the IPL 2023 at the Kokilaben Hospital in Andheri to the likes of PV Sindhu or Saina Nehwal, the list is long. However, he now has a challenge of a different kind lined up as the chief medical officer of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in charge of the nearly 120-plus Indian contingent in the Paris Olympics later this month.

In a major ‘first,’ the IOA has assembled a 13-member team of doctors and experts who would man a recovery and preparation rehabilitation room at the Games Village to offer medical assistance to the contingent in terms of injury management, sports nutrition, mental conditioning, sports massage, recovery and sleep. Explaining how the set-up will be a departure from the past, Dr Pardiwala said: ‘’Normally, there is a polyclinic in the Games Village catering to the needs of 10,000-plus athletes for physiotherapy or recovery services, and there would be big queues for that. This time, the IOA, along with the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI), will have their own set-up open for 24 hours.’’

The stakes will be high for the Indian contingent as they are expected to breach the double-digit mark of medals for the first time – a job easier said than done with factors like performance anxiety, sleep deprivation often proving to be a roadblock even for elite athletes in the past. ‘’This is where we have decided to give special attention to two mental conditioning coaches in our team in Dr Sameer Parekh and Dr Divya Jain. Dr Monica Sharma, a sleep expert, will work to ensure the sleep optimisation for the athletes – especially ahead of their events,’’ Dr Pardiwala said during a virtual media interaction.

The medical team will be carrying sleep pods, a common feature in leading international airports, for the athletes to make use of them. ‘’During summer in Europe, there will be very early sunrises and very late sunsets. This may take a toll on their sleeping pattern and hence, we are hence taking no chances,’’ he explained.

Replying to a media query, the articulate Dr Pardiwala clarified that the contingents who had been working with their own mental conditioning coaches will continue to do so at the Games. ‘’For example, the shooting contingent will be based far away from the city and they have their comfort zone in working with their own mental conditioning coaches. We will, however, be at hand if any help is required on that front,’’ he added.

A key question which came up during the interaction was the recent precedence of high temperatures in Paris as there are normally no air conditioners provided at the Games Villages. Asked how the Indian athletes will cope with it, Dr Pardiwala said: ‘’We had a discussion with the organising committee and were told that they were committed to a Green Olympics and Parisians don’t believe in air conditioners. They will have a geothermal system within the Village of at least 5-7 degrees less than the ambient temperature. The expected temperature in Paris around that time is supposed to be between 18 and 26 degrees C and if the ambient temperature is 5-6 degrees less, I think it's going to be quite okay.’’ he reasoned.

Keeping in mind his experience of dealing with injuries of celebrity clients for over two decades, which one does he think is more challenging – fixing bones or muscles or the mental aspect? ‘’For an elite athlete, staying out of competition with an injury entails a question of his career. Hence, we have to also take care of the mental aspect to ensure depression does not happen,’’ Dr Pardiwala explained.  

Assuring that the contingent on board, including javelin gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, is fit barring a few niggles, Dr Pardiwala said: ‘’In events like Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, India are a superpower while in Olympics, we are aspiring to be one. We will be there with a top-notch medical support system to give it the final push.’’

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