What is Sports Medicine?

Sports medicine is a medical sub-specialty involving the treatment of injuries or illnesses related to participating in organized or individual sports. According to Stanford Children’s Health Division, physicians with training to treat sports injuries don’t just work with professional athletes who’ve been injured. They also work with children and teens who play sports, adult, and children who are participating in fitness programs, and people who perform physically demanding jobs, including firefighters or construction workers.

Physicians in Sport-related Medicine

Officially, sports-related medical treatment is regarded as a medical sub-specialty. Physicians who treat athletes of any age may be emergency doctors, family practitioners, internists, or orthopedists. Additional specialties that can be involved in sports injury treatment are rheumatology or physiology. An ear-nose-and-throat specialist may work with swimmers or high-altitude sports enthusiasts who have suffered an inner ear injury. Pediatricians and general family medicine physicians may treat children who participate in sports. Orthopedic surgeons may treat specific sports injuries.

What Requirements do Sports Physicians Have?

The American Medical Society for Sport Medicine says that physicians in the sub-specialty should be board-certified to practice family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, or rehabilitation. The sports physician should also have two years of additional fellowship training in the field. They also must pass a national certification examination that provides a certificate of added qualifications in sport-related medicine. The sub-specialty also participates in continuing education activities and must re-certify every ten years by taking the current certification examination.

What do Other Practitioners Do?

After surgery for a sports injury, athletes may require rehabilitation, and physical therapists fulfill this role. Physical therapists may be trained to rehabilitate patients using sports- and injury-specific techniques that have proven effective. Athletic trainers may design safe, strength and flexibility-building exercises for sports enthusiasts from first-time workout candidates to professional athletes. Trainers can also design rehabilitation and recovery programs. Nutritionists and dietitians may be certified to work with athletes and others engaging in fitness programs. Sports Dietetics is a board-certified specialty which authorizes the dietitian to design programs for weight and strength-gain, or for safe weight loss, depending on patient need.

Related: How do You Become an Athletic Trainer?

What Injuries Are Most Frequently Treated?

The Indiana University (IU) Department of Sports Medicine reports that they treat injuries in active people with ages ranging from childhood through the elderly. Overuse injuries include muscle and joint sprains and strains, torn ligaments, and tendonitis. Some overuse injuries can even result in bone fractures, IU’s sports medicine division says. The most common injuries treated at IU are categorized as tendinopathy, which means an injury to a tendon. Achilles heel, knee, elbow, and rotator cuff (shoulder) tendon injuries are the most common tendon injury locations.

Sports Doctors Don’t Just Treat Athletes

According to Sports Med Today, physicians in the field of sport medicine don’t just treat professional athletes. They provide care for exercise enthusiasts, including “weekend warriors” and people just beginning to exercise. They are also active in treating people who work in physically-active jobs, such as construction and industrial workers.

Medical treatment for patients who have suffered injuries while playing sports, exercising, or working in physically-demanding jobs is provided by sports doctors and other members of a medical team. Medicine that responds to sport injuries, rehabilitation and conditioning needs is a sub-speciality that is officially recognized by Medicare and the American Board of Medical Subspecialties.