To the average person, the term sports medicine brings mental images of professional athletes—or at least weekend warriors—seeking treatment for complicated injuries suffered on the playing fields, ski slopes or bicycle paths. Yet sports medicine physicians provide care for a wide range of patients, both athletes and non-athletes, with a variety of injuries.
Sports medicine physicians have specialized training that deals with sport- or exercise-related injuries, with a primary focus on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injuries that may occur during sports and other physical activity. For all patients, treatment goals are the same: to treat the injury or condition, and whenever possible, to help the patient return to pre-injury activities or level of play.
Sports medicine doctors come from a variety of fields, including internal medicine and pediatrics, but most choose family medicine as their baseline training. This means that after medical school, they complete three years of family medicine residency and an additional one- or two-year sports medicine fellowship.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to seek help from a sports medicine professional. Sports medicine physicians treat patients who participate in sports just for fun or want to get better results from their exercise program, patients who suffered injuries and want to regain full function, and people who have disabilities and just want to increase their mobility and capabilities.
Sports medicine professionals have specialized training to promote lifelong fitness and wellness and encourage the prevention of injury to the body. They assist patients in ways to help maximize function and minimize disability and time away from sports, school or work.
Sports medicine physicians specialize in the non-surgical medical treatment of musculoskeletal sports conditions, while orthopedic surgeons are trained in surgical as well as non-surgical treatments. Both are well-trained in treating problems that commonly include:
- Injuries such as ankle sprains, muscle strains, knee and shoulder injuries, and fractures
- Overuse injuries such as tendonitis and stress fractures
- Return-to-play decisions involving a sick or injured athlete
- Strength training and conditioning
- Promotion of healthy lifestyles.
While the majority of sports injuries are non-surgical, sports medicine physicians can expedite referral to an orthopedic surgeon when indicated, and can integrate medical expertise with trainers, physical therapists and any other supportive services that may be required.
Once an injury has been resolved, prevention of a re-injury becomes a primary focus for both patient and physician. Activity modification may be recommended.
In addition to providing clinical care, many on the Methodist sports medicine team are involved in community educational activities, from providing information to coaches and athletes at the public school and college levels to meeting with community groups to help educate the population about healthy lifestyle activities. iBi