Sports medicine, also referred to as sport and exercise medicine, is a specialized branch of medicine that focuses on physical fitness, as well as the treatment and prevention of injuries and illnesses related to sports and exercises. Sports medicine also deals with helping people and athletes improve their athletic performance, prevent injuries and recover from illnesses.
Sports medicine focuses solely on musculoskeletal care, which means the care of patients with injuries or problems in the muscles, bones, tendons, joints and ligaments. Among common acute musculoskeletal injuries that sports medicine specialists handle include:
simple fractures (where the bone does not come through the skin)
Sport specialists also treat chronic problems such as:
Sports medicine specialists are often sought by athletes, especially professional ones. However, one doesn't have to be a professional athlete to see a sports doctor. Doctors in the field treat athletes as well as sports enthusiasts who participate in sports or rigorous activities for wellness, leisure or hobby. Moreover, sports physicians can provide support to anyone who wishes to become physically active or is already physically active. Whatever the age or activity level, a sports medicine provider can offer necessary guidance and support in carrying out one's activities to optimize health and physical activity.
More specifically, sports medicine specialists can help you, athlete or not, in one or a combination of the following:
Sports medicine is a practice performed by a sports medicine specialist or a sports physician. As a physician, a sports doctor is board-certified in the fields of Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics or in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Aside from a degree in medicine (which totals eight years), he or she has to obtain an additional training in Sports Medicine through an accredited sub-specialization or fellowship in Sports Medicine Program.
Fellowship programs in sports medicine include thorough training in assessment, diagnosis, evaluation and rehabilitation of a spectrum of sports-related injuries. Physicians also receive hands-on training in performing physical examinations and in the interpretation of MRI or x-ray results. In order to practice Sports medicine as a professional, a physician must pass a national Sports Medicine certification examination and hold a Certificate of Added Qualification in this field. Sports medicine doctors also continue their medical education through re-examination every ten years. In their practice, a sports medicine doctor leads a team of specialty physicians and surgeons including osteopath doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians, as well as physical therapists and athletic trainers to help assist athletes and athletic people.
Sports medicine doctors are trained to meet the increasing demands of the modern health care environment. They are able to perform the following responsibilities for the athletic populace:
Sports medicine specialist is not to be equated with an orthopedic surgeon. Although both are well-experienced in musculoskeletal medicine, sports doctors are limited to non-surgical treatment of these conditions. Meanwhile, orthopedic surgeons are highly-trained in operative treatment, but not solely on sports-related injuries. Sports medicine specialists are able to provide comprehensive non-surgical care and treatment as well as guide appropriate therapies. They seek the expertise of orthopedic surgeons as a last resort or to expedite the treatment process of certain conditions.
If you are seeing a sport doctor for the first time, expect to go through a standard interview where you will be asked about your medical history, current condition, nature and history of your injuries, possible illnesses, and other pertinent information related to your health.
A thorough physical examination would follow which may also include breathing tests, stress test and compartment pressure testing. Depending on the symptoms and results of the physical examination, the sports medical doctor may suggest that you go through tests such as x-rays and MRI to further elucidate the nature of your injury. For those with heart or lung conditions, tests such as ECG, EKG or Holter monitoring testing may be recommended. Based on the results of these tests, an accurate diagnosis of your condition will be presented along with a treatment or exercise plan appropriate for your circumstances.
American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. “What is a Sports Medicine Specialist?” Available: http://www.amssm.org/Content/pdf%20files/WhatisSMSpec-Patient-broch.pdf
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. “Pathways to a Career in Sports Medicine” Available: https://www.sportsmed.org/uploadedFiles/Content/MedicalProfessionals/ProfessionalEducationalResources/PublicationsandResources/PathwaystoaCareerinSports_Medicine/AOSSM%20Careers%20in%20Sports%20Med%20FINAL.pdf