At one time, sports medicine solely consisted of orthopedic surgeons and athletic trainers. There is now a myriad of physicians associated with professional sports teams and scholastic athletic programs. While each contributes something different, it is important for an athlete to understand how various physicians approach sports-related injuries.
Primary Care Physicians: These are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who have completed a residency program in either family medicine, pediatrics or internal medicine. They then enter a one-year fellowship program in sports medicine and complete an examination to attain added qualifications in sports medicine (AQSM). Most major sports programs now have one or more primary care physicians who treat non-operative sports injuries.
Orthopedic Surgeons: Many orthopedic surgeons who specialize in sports medicine complete an additional year of fellowship training after residency. This year is exclusively devoted to sports-related orthopedic injuries and working with a variety of sports teams.
Sports Neurologists: While there is currently no formal fellowship in sports neurology, these are MDs or DOs who complete a neurology residency and treat athletes with neurologic injuries. Concussions, spinal injuries and injuries to peripheral nerves are typical.
Sports Psychologists: Sports psychologists have PhD degrees in clinical psychology. They help athletes deal with the mental aspects of their sport to improve performance.
Other physicians who are commonly utilized as part of the sports medicine team include chiropractors, podiatrists and dentists.
In the case of a sports-related injury, the approach and goals of treatment center around how to get an athlete back to sports participation safely. When seeking care it is wise to investigate what experience that physician has in sports.