Sports medicine is a somewhat broad term that includes a variety of specialists all bound by one commonality – serving patients who take part in athletics. They either work exclusively with athletes, or they have the skills to provide targeted care to people who experience athletic related injuries.
Under this broad group you will find sports medicine specialists such as sports medicine doctors, sports physiotherapists, regular physiotherapists, sports massage therapists, athletic therapists, and trainers.
Some of these work with sports teams or athletic departments, some with individuals. Sometimes more than one specialist works with the same person or team, and their various skillsets and strengths will complement each other.
The goal of sports medicine specialists is clear: Treat injuries that have already happened, restore the athlete to their fullest potential, and work to prevent future injuries from occurring in ongoing athletic activity.
You could seek help from a sports medicine specialist for any of the following reasons:
- You have a sports injury and need treatment
- You are not injured, but want a training regimen to help you stay that way
- You need to regain your athletic performance after an injury or surgery
- You want to maintain your current athletic performance and lifestyle
We’ll get to some of the differences between the various specialties in a moment. But what makes sports doctors so helpful is that they understand the movement and physical demands of particular sports. They know what your body must be able to endure to keep performing in your sport.
And with that knowledge, they can recommend treatments that will help someone with a sports injury to regain their full strength and return to the field ready to compete.
They can also teach you how to apply proper mechanics to your body so you are moving your joints, muscles, and ligaments in the safest and best ways. Plus, if you have a specialist on site during your competitions, they can assess and possibly treat injuries on the spot, depending on the severity.
See 11 basic competencies required of sports physiotherapists
For example, suppose you’ve had an ACL injury and your knee had to be reconstructed. The sports doctor understands that your ACL is what allows you to run, pivot, kick, and change directions. That’s why this is one of the most common knee ligaments injured in sports.
After the surgery gets performed by a sports doctor, a sports physiotherapist can help you rebuild your strength and repair the damage so you can return to the field.
One common tool used by sports medicine doctors is arthroscopy. This process involves a tiny flexible tool that gets inserted into a joint. It includes a camera and a light so it can examine the problem in your knee, shoulder, elbow, or ankle, and determine what needs to be done to repair the damage. This may or may not include surgery.
Check out this great exercise which is ideal for running-specific strength, courtesy of Physio Plus Health Group.