Sports medicine doctor treating a female athlete at the clinic

3 Popular Questions About Sports Medicine Doctors

Sports medicine has only been recognized as a distinct branch of medical practice since the late 20th century. However, amateur and professional sports teams (and individual athletes) have actually employed physicians as sports medicine doctors for decades before the formal recognition of the field.

Despite its relatively recent recognition, it is one of the fastest growing contemporary areas of medicine and is expected to grow by 6.4% p.a. between 2022 and 2030. In addition, the global market for sports medicine products and services is expected to be around US$9.5B by 2030.

This growth is a result of the increasing incidence of sports injuries as participation in sports and other physical activities has become more widespread. However, it is also a result of increasing awareness of certain types of injuries that were not previously fully understood. A prime example of the latter type of injury is concussion.

As a result of the rapid growth of the field, it is one of the areas of medicine about which there are many aspects that are not fully understood. In this article, we set out to answer three of the most common questions that may be asked by those contemplating careers as sports medicine doctors.

What Is Sports Medicine?

Sports and exercise medicine is the area of medicine that focuses on treating, preventing and managing injuries connected with sports and exercise. In a broader sense, it also deals with attaining and managing physical fitness. It can also be regarded as a branch of musculoskeletal medicine.

In most countries, it is regarded as a physician, or non surgical, specialty. However, in some countries (the USA for example) it can be either a physician or surgical specialty. In the US, it can also be a sub specialty of primary care medicine.

In a broader sense, the universe of sports medicine doctors can also be said to include a number of allied disciplines such as physiotherapists, athletic trainers and podiatrists.

What Does A Sports Medicine Doctor Do?

As with any health care field, the specific duties of a doctor in the field of sports and exercise medicine can vary on a daily basis. The daily duties can include some or all of the following:

  • Performing physical examinations of injured athletes and ordering lab tests or imaging scans to get more information on their injuries;
  • Once a complete assessment has been made of an athlete’s injuries, devising a treatment plan and reviewing it with the athlete;
  • If medication is required as part of the treatment, the sports medicine specialist will be responsible for prescribing the appropriate medication. This would be done after reviewing the athlete’s medical history in order to avoid any adverse reactions that may arise from taking the medication;
  • Helping injured athletes perform rehabilitative routines and assessing their readiness to return to competition and/or training;
An athletic trainer treating an injured athlete. The duties of sports medicine doctors may include treating injured athletes "on the field".
Athletic trainer treating an injured athlete

As mentioned above, sports medicine doctors include athletic trainers and physiotherapists. Athletic trainers in particular are required to be on duty during competition or training events. In this role, they need to be ready to treat injured athletes on the field in the immediate aftermath of an injury.

Other important functions for sports medicine practitioners may include co-ordinations with coaches, orthopedic surgeons and physiotherapists in order to devise a consistent program for treatment and rehabilitation of an athlete’s injuries.

An important part of this might be educating the athlete and his coaches on the dietary and exercise regimen necessary to ensure a full recovery.

How To Become A Sports Medicine Physician In Canada?

In Canada, the first step to becoming a recognized sports medicine doctor is obtaining an undergraduate degree, typically in a science field such as chemistry or biology.

The next step is graduating from a recognized medical school with a three or four year MD degree. Following this, you will need to complete post graduate training in a medical specialty area. These may include, for example, family medicine, emergency medicine or orthopaedics.

The final step is completion of a sport medicine fellowship, typically done by earning a diploma in sport and exercise medicine. The time typically required to accomplish this is 1 to 2 years.

Qualification as a sports medicine doctor can therefore take several years of study and is a significant commitment. Before starting down this road, it is wise to ask yourself if will find it to be a fulfilling and satisfying career.

To answer this question, please feel free to consult our other articles on this subject, These include our articles on places where sports medicine doctors work and useful questions and answers on the general subject of sports medicine.

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