Sports medicine is a medical field that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders and injuries that are commonly associated with sports. Essentially, a sports medicine physician provides total care for athletes.
A common misconception is that you have to be a professional or high-level athlete to see a sports medicine doctor. In fact, anyone who is active can benefit from the specialized training and knowledge that a sports medicine doctor provides.
In addition to the pros, sports medicine treatment can help:
- “Weekend warriors” training for marathons, triathlons, and other competitive events
- College, high school, and middle school athletes
- Bikers and hikers
- Yoga and Pilates practitioners
- Dancers and gymnasts
- Skiers and snowboarders
- Musicians (such as those in musical theater or marching band)
- Those looking to lose weight with the help of physical activity
- Anyone looking to stay fit through exercise
What Training Do Sports Medicine Doctors Have? How Are They Different From Other Doctors?
The field of sports medicine can be slightly confusing, in part because anyone can claim that they’re a “sports medicine specialist.” A “specialist,” however, is not a doctor, and there are indeed legitimate sports medicine doctors. If you want the best care, this is who you want to see.
All sports medicine doctors have either an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both of these degrees are equally advanced, require licensing by the same licensing boards, and demand the same requirements for practicing medicine. But the “Osteopathic” in D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) refers to an area of medicine that emphasizes holistic care or _treatment of the whole person. _They also offer direct, hands-on treatment through the massage and manipulation of joints, muscles, and bones — a perfect background for sports medicine.
These doctors must complete their residency program in one of two specialties (orthopedic surgery or primary care sports medicine) and then achieve additional special qualifications in sports medicine through a fellowship.
Therefore, a sports medicine doctor’s total training will be about 12 to 13 years long and look like this:
- 4 years undergraduate work
- 4 years medical school to achieve either an M.D. or a D.O.
- 3 years residency in either primary care sports medicine or orthopedic surgery
- 1-2 years fellowship in sports medicine or interventional spine and sport
Can’t Any Doctor Treat a Sports-Related Injury?
Technically, yes. Most primary care physicians can treat some sports injuries. But keep in mind that this field is not their specialty, and many PCPs will end up referring patients with sports-related injuries to a sports medicine physician.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that sports medicine doctors offer complete health care for athletes. This includes help with injury prevention, nutrition, conditioning and training, muscle maintenance, endurance, treatment for illnesses and injuries, treatment for fatigue, and more. If you want to optimize your athletic performance and see the best results without injury, a sports medicine doctor is who you should see.
How to Know if You Need to See a Sports Medicine Doctor
You should see a sports medicine doctor if you …
- have an acute injury (e.g. knee or shoulder injuries, fractures, sprains, strains, etc.) and want to “return to play” as soon as possible
- have an overuse injury and want to “return to play” as soon as possible
- have an acute or chronic illness (mononucleosis, diabetes, asthma, etc.) and want to “return to play” as soon as possible
- need a diagnosis for localized or general pain or discomfort
- want to prevent injury
- want to improve muscle mass, stamina, endurance, or otherwise enhance your athletic performance
- want to promote a healthier lifestyle (lose weight, improve heart health, etc.) through physical fitness
- struggle with exercise because of osteoarthritis
How Can a Sports Medicine Doctor Help Me When I’m Injured?
It should be good news that approximately 90 percent of sports injuries require non-surgical treatment. This means that surgery is not usually necessary; however, it also means that only a qualified professional will be able to ameliorate your sports injuries through musculoskeletal manipulation and other non-invasive treatment techniques.
Sports Medicine at The Spine & Sports Health Center
If you are interested in seeing a sports medicine doctor, contact The Spine & Sports Health Center to make an appointment. We offer personalized treatment programs that combine sports medicine with other advanced therapies. Our goal is to get you “back on the field” and “back in the game” as quickly as possible while ensuring you are healthy and safe from injury.
To learn more about our sports medicine treatment programs or to schedule an appointment, feel free to fill out a contact form or give us a call at (201) 535-2474.