“The advice you receive is only as good as the source.” This adage is especially true when seeking medical advice for a sports-related injury.
As sports medicine has become more inclusive of various disciplines, it is sometimes hard for athletes to determine where they should be going for consultation and treatment. Here is a rundown:
Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs): These professionals are the quarterbacks when it comes to evaluating and treating sports injuries. They are often employed by a school or team to oversee medical care. Their role includes obtaining consultation with appropriate medical specialists. Athletic trainers serve as the intermediaries between physicians and administrative staff.
Physical Therapists (PTs): Physical therapists specialize in rehabilitating medical conditions. These can be musculoskeletal, cardiac or neurologic in nature. A variety of modalities can be used including ultrasound, traction and stretching exercises. Many physical therapists specialize in rehabilitating sports-related injuries.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs): This group typically works with teams or individuals to put together a workout regimen that will avoid injury and improve athletic performance. They accomplish this through exercise and nutrition.
Personal Trainers: Personal trainers are usually employed at gyms and by individuals to provide advice and instruction on proper ways to exercise. They emphasize putting together an effective workout routine and avoiding injury.
The most important difference between these groups is that athletic trainers and physical therapists are medically-based disciplines. They are trained to diagnose and treat sports injuries while working closely with a physician. Strength and conditioning specialists and personal trainers are performance-based and emphasize reaching athletic goals.
Many sports medicine professionals are certified in multiple disciplines. Deborah Gardiner of Procare Physical Therapy in Willimantic has both a Master’s degree in physical therapy and certification as an athletic trainer.
Scott Di Francesco is a certified athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Along with his brother, Tim, a physical therapist, they own TD Athletes Edge in Salem, Mass. They work with many professional athletes to rehabilitate injuries and help them exceed previous accomplishments.
Sport-specific programs for rehabilitation and training are now growing in popularity. These consist of various medical and performance professionals who specialize in a specific athletic activity. They often work with athletes beginning in their teens during the off season to develop strength in muscles needed for their sport and a diet that will help them succeed during the season. Surprisingly, these programs are very different and can be designed for any sport.
Sports medicine physicians have also become a diverse group. Next week, Healthy Sports will clarify some of the confusion surrounding how different physicians approach sports injuries.