You are an athlete who has experienced a sports injury — a torn ACL, a damaged rotator cuff, or maybe just a bad sprain. Should you go to your regular doctor, an orthopedic specialist, or seek out a sports medicine doctor? Is there a difference?
What is Sports Medicine?
First, let’s look at what a sports medicine doctor is, and how one differs from an orthopedic surgeon or other doctors. Sports medicine does not have its own board certification, so most sports medicine specialists train as either family practice physicians or orthopedic surgeons. Some specialize in pediatrics as more and more kids and adolescents train at elite competitive levels.
After completing residency requirements, a doctor specializing in sports medicine undergoes training through an accredited program or fellowship, and must pass a national exam to gain the official qualification through the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. (link anchor text: American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.
With this training, sports medicine doctors join general practices or sometimes work as team doctors for college or professional teams. Many join specialty clinics that offer full services including diagnosis, treatment, surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and even nutrition and exercise counseling for athletes.
Why Choose a Sports Medicine Specialist?
If you have an injury requiring surgery, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine knows what you are up against as an athlete. You want to be confident that the surgery will resolve your injury, be minimally invasive, with the fastest and best recovery possible. Sports medicine orthopedic surgeons do hundreds of surgeries and have the most up-to-date training in recent techniques for arthroscopy. More important, they also know when your injury does not require surgery.
A sports medicine doctor does much more than surgery or referrals for surgery. They are trained to diagnose injuries quickly and correctly, and determine the best approach, whether surgical or not. The doctor follows the patient through treatment including physical therapy and other rehabilitation, and advising a patient on how to avoid repeated injuries. With the increased concern about head injuries and concussions in sports, it’s more important than ever to have all injuries correctly evaluated and treated.
Finally, sports medicine isn’t just for athletes. Casual exercisers, people who have other conditions but who are trying to get more fit, people beginning or ramping up a fitness regime, “weekend warriors” and people who suffer injuries at work also benefit from sports medicine doctors. Next time you have a need or injury that sports medicine specialists treat, consider if they might be the right choice for you.