Careers 101: What Is Sports Medicine?

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Sports medicine is the practice of helping athletes recover from injury, prevent future injuries and improve athletic performance. However, it can also help those who are not athletes by helping with physical activity.

Who Practices Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is not considered a medical specialty by itself. It's actually a combination of specialists that fall under the umbrella of sports medicine, but are not exclusively connected to sports medicine. Most doctors and other professionals who practice in the field of sports medicine began their studies under another field of study and then were certified in sports medicine. Common specialties include family medicine, internal medicine and emergency medicine. There are often different sports medicine specialists for children than adults. That's because kids have growing bodies, so treatment is different for children than for adults. Many sports medicine doctors also have orthopedic training. Doctors in this field will often work with other specialists to find the best care for the patient. These can include, but are not limited to, nutritionists, athletic trainers and physical therapists.

Why See a Sports Medicine Specialist?
Sports medicine specialists treat a variety of injuries. Some examples are:

  • Fractures
  • Sprained ankles
  • Tendonitis
  • Knee injuries
  • Concussions
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • However, they also focus on preventative measures that help the patient perform better. This could be through exercise and nutrition.

    When to See a Sports Medicine Specialist?
    If someone suffers a major sports or exercise injury, it's best to go to an emergency room first. For other injuries, they can seek a primary care physician. From there they may be referred to a sports medicine specialist. If someone is an athlete and thinks a sports medicine specialist is right for them, they should discuss options with their primary care physician.

    Careers in Sports Medicine
    A person doesn't need to be a doctor to have a career in sports medicine. Positions in the field need different levels of education. Besides being a physician, many people in this field are athletic trainers or physical therapists. To be in the field of sports medicine, the lowest educational requirement is a bachelor's degree. To be a physician or physical therapist, a person needs to have a license in the state of practice. Some states also require athletic trainers to be licensed. There are other fields that can sometimes fall under the category of sports medicine. They may include nurses, dietitians and exercise physiologists. There are also certifications that can be obtained through The American College of Sports Medicine. They include Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Health Fitness Specialist.

    Skills Needed for Sports Medicine
    Just being "book-smart" about a field is just the beginning. It is important that individuals have strong social skills. In this field, individuals talk a lot with patients. It can also help to have an interest in athletics.

    Expectations in Sports Medicine
    When considering any field of study, many have questions about the expected salary and future opportunities in the field. Median salaries in the field of sports medicine range from $44,000 to $214,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is expected that this field can see growth that is above average over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that all doctors, not just those in sports medicine, will see an 18 percent increase in employment. That is because the United States has an aging population.