Sports medicine focuses on treating and preventing sports-related injuries and improving the performance and movements of people. Sports medicine is not meant for athletes only, but it is useful for patients who need more effective exercise programs. This is also useful for disabled patients if they desire to expand their physical capabilities. This is a fast growing healthcare filed because the professionals who specialize in this field can help many regular people and athletes.
Even if you are not a professional athlete, you can seek the help of a sports medicine professional. These professionals treat people who participate in sports to get better results or just for fun. Different health careers in sports medicine are:
- Athletic trainer
- Exercise physiologist
- Doctor of Osteopathy
- Physical therapy
- Medical doctor
Though most sports teams started employing team of physicians for many years,
the term gained popularity only since the late 20th century. They mainly focus on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of injuries that occur during sports and other physical activities. Sports medicine physicians receive special training in sports medicine during a fellowship program after completing a residency program in other specialty such as orthopedic specialty or primary care. At present, no wide-spread residency programs are available in sports medicine. Sports medicine doctors who have specialization in primary care mostly complete a 3-year family medicine residency after their medical school. Then, they focus their attention on sports medicine.
Career Options in Sports Medicine
Sports medicine career options are very vast. The careers of some nurses, dietitians and nutritionists can also fall under sports medicine category if they focus on some aspects of sports or fitness. Some most common job titles in sports medicine include athletic trainer, sports medicine physician, physical therapist, kinesiotherapist, and exercise physiologist.
Sports Medicine Physicians
Doctors of osteopathy and medical doctors deal with sports related illnesses and injuries. However, medical doctors prescribe medications, perform surgeries, and diagnose and treat patients. Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from an accredited medical school is essential for performing these tasks. Osteopathic doctors also treat and diagnose patients, but their approaches are more holistic and they focus on the musculoskeletal system of patients. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO) from an accredited osteopathic medicine college is essential for them. Both types of doctors must complete a resident training successfully and they must be licensed to practice medicine.
Athletic trainers are responsible for diagnosing, treating and preventing various injuries including those are related to sports. Unlike fitness specialists or personal trainers, athletic trainers are known as allied health professionals. According to the BLS, an athletic trainer has at least a bachelor degree. However, they can earn a master’s or even a doctoral degree. Athletic trainers must be registered and licensed to work in almost every state.
Physical therapists are responsible for treating and diagnosing patients who face a variety of physical challenges, including disabilities or sports related injuries. They help restoring mobility and function to injured limbs or other body parts, relieving pain, limit or prevent effects of disabilities caused by a disease or accident. A post graduate degree in physical therapy from an accredited school is essential for entering in this career. In order to practice in the US, physical therapists must have a license.
These professionals also focus on health benefits of exercise. Kinesiotherapists develop and supervise exercise programs for patients. These programs are helpful for them to regain their mobility and strength after an illness or injury. They develop therapeutic exercise plans, including aquatic exercise. Kinesiotherapists can gain certification as RKT (Registered Kinesiotherapy) through AKA (American Kinesiotherapist Association).
Exercise physiologists help patients to improve and maintain their physical fitness. These professionals focus on cardiovascular system and they help rehabilitate patients who suffer from heart problems and other chronic diseases. Exercise physiologists develop exercise plans as per individual needs and they offer sports counseling and sports training guidance. A degree in exercise physiology from an accredited school is essential for becoming an exercise physiologist. The American Society of Exercise physiologists issues board certification to these professionals.
The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) offers sports medicine specialty certifications such as HFS (Certified Health Fitness Specialist) and CPT (Certified Personal Trainer). The ACSM also provides clinical certifications for physiologists and exercise specialists as well as certification for exercise specialists who treat people with disabilities and cancer.
As per the latest evaluation, sports medicine field is booming rapidly. Lots of medical schools offer more and more sports science and sports medicine curriculum. Western society has started recognizing the dangers of physical activities. They are making significant efforts within public health community to make people more physically active. So sports medicine has greater importance.