Sports medicine is designed to treat sports-related injuries and conditions that prevent an athlete from participating in an athletic event. The primary focus of a sports medicine doctor is to make sure an athlete is as physically and mentally prepared to compete. While sports medicine is not recognized as a residency specialty, prospective sports doctors can complete a 1-2 year sports medicine fellowship program after residency. These doctors generally work with athletes at the professional and Division I collegiate level.
Primary Care Sports Medicine Doctors
Primary care sports medicine doctors are non-surgical doctors who are responsible for preventing, diagnosing and treating sports-related injuries. These doctors are often employed by specific teams and attend games and practices to provide immediate assistance in case of injury. These sports medicine doctors develop plans to help treat and rehabilitate areas of the body after injury or surgery. Treatment and rehab involve stretching, strength training exercises, braces and injections. Additional responsibilities include diagnosing concussions, conducting physicals and clearing players to participate in sporting activities.
Orthopedic surgeons operate on muscle and skeletal problems which may include repairing broken bones, connecting tissues and ligaments and any other surgical issues involving the foot and ankle, hand, hip, knee, shoulder and spine. A primary care sports medicine doctor often refers an athlete to an orthopedic surgeon when surgery may be an option. The surgeon evaluates and assesses the athlete’s injury and determines whether surgery is the best course of action. Orthopedic surgeons may also be involved in post-surgical responsibilities and monitor rehabilitation of athletes' progress.
Because of the high level of competition and pressure involved in sports, it’s important to monitor and assess an athlete’s mental condition and mindset. Because athletes often experience unparalleled success at an early age, there are areas of their lives which are often left undeveloped. A sports psychiatrist may treat an athlete with lack of confidence, mental roadblocks and off-the-field issues, including eating disorders, steroid abuse, physical aggressiveness and post-athletic career concerns.