Sports medicine doctors have special training to restore function to injured patients so they can get moving again as soon as possible. They are also knowledgeable about preventing illness and injury in active people. Although sports doctors do work with professional athletes, they also treat children and teens involved in sports and adults who exercise for personal fitness, as well as people who have physically demanding jobs, like construction workers.
It is not a medical specialty in itself. Most doctors are certified in internal medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, or another specialty and then receive additional training. Others specialize in treating injuries in children and teens, whose growing bodies can be quite different from those of adults. They are generally board-certified in pediatrics, or family medicine, with additional training in sports medicine. Some, but not all, sports medicine doctors have surgical training, too, usually as orthopedic surgeons.
Other professionals who are not doctors may work in conjunction with a sports medicine doctor to provide care:
- Physical therapists. They help people rehabilitate and recover from injuries.
- Certified athletic trainers. These trainers provide rehabilitative exercise routines to help patients regain strength and develop conditioning programs to prevent future injury
- Nutritionists. They may assist with needed weight loss or weight gain and who can provide dietary advice to help people improve their physical functioning
Reasons to see a sports medicine specialist
Here are examples of injuries treated by its doctors:
- Ankle sprains
- Knee and shoulder injuries
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Heat illness
- Eating disorders
- Cartilage injuries
In addition, it doctors can provide advice on nutrition, supplements, exercise, and injury prevention.
When to call a sports medicine doctor
If your child sustains a significant injury during exercise or sports, it’s probably best to seek immediate treatment at an emergency room, rather than wait to see a sports medicine specialist. Signs of a significant injury include severe pain, swelling, numbness, and an inability to put any weight on the injured area. If none of these symptoms is present, have your child rest at home and call your child’s health care provider for guidance and a possible referral to a sports medicine specialist.
Most sports injuries do not require surgery. Treatment for a sports injury can include the use of pain relievers and keeping the injured area immobilized with a cast or sling. In some cases, a surgical procedure may be required to repair torn tissue or realign bones.