If you’ve ever injured yourself while playing a sport or exercising, the doctor you must have consulted was probably a sports medicine specialist. Sports medicine doctors come under the umbrella of orthopaedic specialists who specifically deal with sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. Their expertise lies in handling any medical issue related to sports, from simple joint pain to osteoarthritis to nutrition. Most sports medicine doctors work with professional and amateur athletes, advising them on the best course of treatment after an injury, but some doctors even treat the average person who is not a regular sports player.
In addition to treating musculoskeletal injuries, sports medicine doctors also work with athletes to prevent injuries. Moreover, sports physicians diagnose and treat children, as well as work with older adults with injuries of the bones, muscles, or joints.
Let’s take a closer look at the field of sports medicine.
What Does a Sports Medicine Doctor Do?
Sports medicine specialists may work in a clinical setting independently, or with a team of medical specialists for professional sports teams. Sports physicians do not perform large, risky surgeries; however, many of them do perform micro-invasive surgical procedures. Their work may involve coordinating with orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and nutritionists. A sports injury doctor’s job description includes:
- Diagnosing and treating issues in the musculoskeletal system
- Recommending and analyzing lab tests or diagnostic imaging procedures
- Taking physical examinations and keeping track of athletes’ medical histories
- Coming up with treatment strategies and determining readiness for the next play
- Monitoring the progress of the rehabilitation of injured athletes
- Prescribing medication
- Administering injections
- Performing diagnostic ultrasounds
- Advising athletes and coaches on diet, hydration, exercise routines, and injury prevention
What are Some Injuries Sports Medicine Doctors Treat?
Some injuries that sports physicians are qualified to treat are:
- Rotator cuff tear: A torn rotator cuff is when the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint are torn or injured. It commonly affects players who perform repeated overhead motions, such as baseball and tennis players. The injury can be partial or total, with the latter requiring surgery.
- Achilles tendon rupture: The Achilles tendon may tear when the back of the lower leg undergoes extreme strain. Signs of a torn Achilles tendon are sudden sharp pain in the heel area or a snapping sound as the tendon breaks, making it difficult to walk.
- Ankle sprain: Almost everyone has experienced a sprained ankle at some point. A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments surrounding the bones of the ankle get injured. An ankle sprain is caused when the ankle is twisted suddenly, leading to a tear in the ligaments that hold the ankle bones in place.
How To Become a Sports Medicine Doctor?
The first step to becoming a doctor in sports medicine is by completing four years of bachelor’s degree, followed by earning an MD or DO from an accredited university.
After graduation, you must complete a residency that focuses on emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, paediatrics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. The residency must be followed by a fellowship in sports medicine.
After completion of the fellowship, you can earn a medical license and opt to get board certified. To continue practising as a licensed doctor, you must continuously participate in medical education activities and take the recertification examination every 10 years. This rigorous process is what makes sports medicine physicians different from other physicians without specialised training.
Your duties as a sports medicine physician will be different each day and depends on the types of conditions you will be dealing with. Your work environment will also be different, depending on where you choose to work or if you want to practice as an independent specialist. Sports medicine is a promising career option as it does not involve performing surgeries. If you’ve always been a sports fan, it’s a great way to combine your love for sports with your passion for helping people and making a difference.