How Much Do Sports Medicine Doctors Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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Whether Amateur or Pro, Athletes Got Game With Specialized Physicians

If you have an athlete at your house, whether a tiny T-ball player, fearless snowboarder or high school hoops star, you know injuries can be the price of participation. Doctors specializing in sports medicine advise and treat athletes of all ages, from amateurs to professionals. Average salaries range from $189,485 to $282,374 annually.

Job Description

Sports medicine physicians are medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries incurred during athletic activities. Sports medicine is not a recognized board-certified specialty, so practitioners are either primary care physicians or orthopedic surgeons with additional education and training relevant to athletes' needs. This can include designing treatment and rehabilitation strategies, prescribing medicine and providing nutrition counseling. Sports medicine can also include sports psychology and substance abuse awareness and prevention.

Physicians specializing in sports medicine do not work with athletes exclusively. They can diagnose, treat and advise patients from all walks of life and in any age category who require rehabilitation, strengthening or wellness plans. Primary care physicians do not perform surgery but can refer athletes to orthopedic surgeons or other surgical specialists as necessary.

Education Requirements

Physicians wanting to specialize in sports medicine must complete specialty training that goes beyond the completion of a medical degree. This includes either a minimum three-year residency in primary care medicine or at least a five-year residency in orthopedic surgery.

Most prospective doctors enter medical school with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Although there is no specific degree requirement, coursework should include advanced mathematics, life sciences, chemistry, physics, psychology, English and communications. Acceptance into medical school is competitive; you should have a solid grade-point average of 3.65 or higher and a score of at least 508 on the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. Letters of recommendation are required from individuals, usually college professors, who can attest to your academic achievement, intellectual curiosity and work ethic. Relevant work or volunteer experience can enhance your application.

Medical school requires four years of study. The first year consists of lecture and labs in advanced life sciences and pharmacology. In years 2, 3 and 4, students complete additional coursework but increasingly spend time in supervised clinical settings, rotating through specialties to gain knowledge and experience.

A medical residency is required of all medical school graduates before they can obtain licensure to practice in the United States. Board certification as a primary care physician or orthopedic surgeon is not required for practice but highly desirable and can enhance both job opportunities and salary level.


Sports medicine physicians work in a variety of settings, including private practice, hospitals, healthcare facilities and rehabilitation facilities. Physicians might work with other healthcare professionals, including physicians practicing other specialties, physical therapists, nutritionists and psychologists.

The most sought-after jobs in the field of sports medicine might be with collegiate or professional sports organizations, working directly with athletes as they train and compete. As team doctors, these specialists design training and wellness programs and provide immediate care, as necessary, for injuries incurred during practice and competitions.

Geographic State and Metropolitan Salary Map for Physicians

Years of Experience

Pay variation is most dependent upon geographic location and is also affected by specialization; surgeons generally earn more than primary care physicians. On average, salaries do not increase significantly with years in the field. Here are typical salary ranges:

  • Less than 1 year experience: $198,216 to $217,134
  • 3 to 4 years experience: $212,283 to $237,307
  • 7 to 9 years experience: $221,985 to $256,235
  • 20-plus years experience: $221,985 to $256,235

Job Growth Trend

Opportunities for all types of physicians, including those specializing in sports medicine, are expected to increase in the next decade. The growing population, the popularity of sports programs for both genders and medical advances related to athletes' needs will contribute to the demand for practitioners of sports medicine.