History of sports medicine - 1876-1880


German internist Max Joseph Oertel (1835-1897) introduced the so-called 'Terrainkur', where light exercises, such as walking or cycling, were performed in open air and over a longer period. In this way, stress was reduced, life vitality increased and the heart and circulation functions improved. Oertel prescribed fixed distances and determined the calorie consumption in function of the corresponding effort. Depending on the cardiac findings, the correct gait training could then be determined. It was a first attempt to a physical training of patients with cardiovascular disease. In 1884 he published 'Therapie der Kreislaufs-Störungen, Kraftabnahme des Herzmuskels, ungenügender Compensationen bei Herzfehlern, Fettherz und Fetsucht, Veränderungen im Lungenkreislauf etc.' and in 1886 'Ueber Terrain-Curorte zur Behandlung von Kranken mit Kreislaufs-Störungen'.


The first treadmills were built to use the power of animals to operate water pumps and spinning wheels and to churn butter.

For this purpose, horses, cows, dogs and sheep were used.


American physician Allan McLane Hamilton (1848-1919) wanted to measure the muscle weakness of his patients and invented the first pneumatic dynamometer.

The device consisted of an air-filled glass tube, which stucked in a rubber pear filled with colored water. To test the grip, the patient squeezed the pear, causing the water to rise. In this way he was able to determine the rise of the water, by means of a scale.


In 1875, German Orthopedic Surgeon Carl Hermann Schildbach (1824-1888) was the first physician to teach 'Heilgymnastik'. In 1853 he came in charge of the 'Anstalt für Wasserkur und Heilgymnastik' in Pelonken near Danzig.

Six years later he moved to Leipzig to become deputy director in the private clinic of his colleague Moritz Schreber (1808-1861). At Schrebers' death he took over the clinic himself. In 1876 he founded the first public University Orthopedic Outpatient Clinic.


French physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) made important discoveries about human bodily functions, such as the central regulation of the metabolic process and the formation of sugars in the liver.

He specialized with physiologist and neurologist François Magendie (1773-1855) and developed into an expert in the research of the digestive process and the functioning of the nervous system. In 1848 he showed the importance of the pancreas and the small intestine for digestion. With regard to the nervous system, Bernard also made important discoveries, including a description of the auditory nerve. In 1867 he received the 'Légion d'Honneur' and in 1869 he was admitted to 'l'Académie Française'. In 1876 he received the 'Copley Medal', the highest award by the 'Royal Society of London'. He was the first French scientist to receive a state funeral and he is buried in the famous 'Père-Lachaise' cemetery.


The Charriere Dynamometer was a Push-Pull type dynamometer similar to that of Edme Regnier (1751-1823). It was manufactured in France by Joseph-Frederic-Benoit Charriere (1803-1876), a designer of medical instruments.


French physician and physiologist Paul Regnard (1850-1927), working in the Paris 'l'Hôpital de La Salpétrière' and known for his bulky book on neurology, collected the exhaled air in a rubber bag of about 200 liters.

Breathing was via a mouthpiece and the inhaled air was separated from the exhaled breath via valves. Later an air sample from the bag was analyzed.


Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso (1846-1910) was one of the pioneers of applied physiology whose thinking influenced the teaching of physical education in many countries. The expansion of sports to broader layers of the population had greatly increased, which resulted ultimately in the preventive-medical aspect of sports medicine. In 1879 he was appointed Professor of Physiology at the University of Turin. Some of his most famous works

  • Die Diagnostik des Pulses (1879)
  • Fisiologia dell 'uomo sulle Alpi (1897, third edition, 1909)
  • Man Sana in Corpore Sano (1903)


American educator, teacher and director of physical training Dudley Allen Sargent (1849-1924) built with his friends horizontal bars and other devices in his school and started a gymnastics club. In 1869 'Bowdoin College' invited him to build a gym. Two years later he went to study at that university and during his medical studies he was a gym instructor at Yale University. He obtained a Medical degree at the Yale Medical School in 1878 and moved to New York City, where he ran a private gymnasium. He assessed the physical needs of his clients based on a physical examination, and adjusted the exercise regime accordingly with different types of fitness equipment. From 1879 until his retirement in 1919, Sargent was director of the 'Hemenway Gymnasium' at 'Harvard University' where he taught the German and Swedish systems he had learned as a young man.


Dudley Allen Sargent is considered the founder of physical education in the United States. He invented several gymnastic devices and in 1902 he designed a universal test for strength, speed and endurance. He wrote a large number of articles and books on physical education and warned that people without strong physical education programs would become fat, distorted and awkward.


In 1880 a British law made gymnastic training, consistend of two hours of physical training and military exercises, compulsory in all public boys' schools.


The first clinics for massage therapy in the United States were opened in the 1860s by Swedish military physical educator, the Baron Nils Posse (1862-1895) (picture) in Boston, and by Norwegian Hartwig Nissen (1855-1924) and Swedish physician William Skarstrom (1896-1951) in Washington DC.