A Play-by-Play Primer on Sports Medicine Physicians
Sports medicine is now one of the fastest growing fields in healthcare, but not everyone is clear about the role of a sports medicine doctor. With that in mind, we put together this collection of frequently asked questions to help you understand whether seeing a sports medicine doctor is right for you.
What is a sports medicine doctor?
A sports medicine doctor is a physician who is board certified in primary care, emergency medicine, or physical medicine/rehabilitation, and who has obtained one to two years of additional fellowship training in sports medicine.
In this article, we focus on primary care sports medicine doctors, who are trained in primary care and musculoskeletal medicine. They’re able to provide comprehensive care for sports-related injuries as well as general medical conditions.
Who can see a sports medicine doctor?
While you don’t need to be an athlete to see a sports medicine doctor, patients who are athletes or lead active lives in any capacity will be able to best leverage the specialized training of this type of doctor.
“You don’t need to be an elite athlete to come see us,” says Joshua Purses, DO, MultiCare Sports Medicine specialist. “We focus on anyone who is active and who exercises for health, or who wants to begin. We provide general musculoskeletal care to patients of all ages, engaging in all levels of activity. We serve to keep the community active and fit, and to help return athletes and active community members safely to play and work after injury.”
Sports medicine doctors also provide care for tactical athletes such as medical responders, firefighters, police officers and military pesonnel.
What types of conditions does a sports medicine doctor treat?
Primary care sports medicine doctors have training that spans general medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and the non-musculoskeletal aspects of sports medicine. They can treat acute injuries like ankle sprains, muscle strains and fractures, as well as overuse injuries like tendonitis and osteoarthritis. They also treat general medical conditions such as concussions, asthma, rashes and diabetes, with a focus on how these conditions can affect athletes and active people.
Primary care sports medicine physicians can also provide expert guidance specific to athletes and active people on topics such as nutrition (sometimes with the help of a sports dietician), exercise regimens, strength training, injury prevention techniques, return-to-play decisions, and how to develop a healthy lifestyle that meets a patient’s individual needs.
What type of services does a sports medicine doctor provide?
Sports medicine doctors get to the root of the problem by using a patient’s comprehensive history, a physical exam, and imaging to help make a diagnosis and determine treatment options. From there, they work closely with physical therapists, certified athletic trainers and orthopedic surgeons to ensure proper and comprehensive care.
Sports medicine doctors can perform in-office non-surgical procedures and treatments, including manual therapy, steroid injections, hyaluronic acid joint injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, prolotherapy and ultrasound-guided procedures.
What’s the difference between an orthopedic surgeon and a sports medicine doctor?
If you’ve sustained an acute or overuse injury, you might wonder whether you’ll need surgery. As primary care doctors, sports medicine physicians explore non-surgical treatment options first, such as rehabilitation and injections. They go the extra mile to help patients return to their activities without surgery, but collaborate closely with surgeons if necessary to help ensure that patients receive the care they need to recover well.
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