What Is Sports Medicine?

If your child is injured while doing any type of physical activity, you may be advised to see a sports medicine healthcare provider for treatment. This could be exercising or playing sports.

About sports medicine specialists

Sports medicine healthcare providers have special training to help injured people get moving again as soon as possible. They are experts in preventing illness and injury in active people. Sports medicine healthcare providers do work with professional athletes. But they also treat children and teens involved in sports and adults who exercise for personal fitness. They also treat people who have physically demanding jobs, like construction workers.

Sports medicine is not a medical specialty itself. Most sports medicine healthcare providers are certified in other specialties. These can be internal medicine or emergency medicine. They can also be family medicine, or another specialty. Then they get more training. Other providers specialize in treating injuries in children and teens. Their growing bodies can be quite different from those of adults. These specialists are usually board-certified in pediatrics or family medicine and also have training in sports medicine. Some sports medicine providers have surgical training., The training is usually as orthopedic surgeons.

Other experts who are not medical doctors may work with a sports medicine specialist to provide care including:

  • Physical therapists. They help people rehabilitate and recover from injuries.

  • Certified athletic trainers. These trainers provide rehab exercise routines to help people regain strength. They also develop conditioning programs to prevent future injury.

  • Nutritionists. They may help with needed weight loss or weight gain. They can provide dietary advice to help people. 

Reasons to see a sports medicine specialist

Your child may see a sports medicine healthcare provider for an injury such as:

  • Ankle sprain

  • Fracture

  • Knee and shoulder injury

  • Tendonitis

  • Exercise-induced asthma

  • Heat illness

  • Concussion

  • Eating disorder

  • Cartilage injury

Sports medicine healthcare providers give advice on nutrition and exercise. They can also advise supplements and ways to prevent injury.

When to call a sports medicine healthcare provider

If your child has a major injury during exercise or sports, go to an emergency room. Don't wait to see a sports medicine specialist. Some signs of a major injury include severe pain and swelling. They also include numbness, and an inability to put any weight on the injured area. If your child doesn't have these symptoms, have them rest at home. Call your child's healthcare provider for guidance. You may want to ask for a referral to a sports medicine specialist.

Most sports injuries don't need surgery. Treatment for a sports injury can include taking pain relievers, putting ice on the injured area, and keeping it immobilized with a cast or sling. In some cases, surgery may be needed to fix torn tissue or realign bones. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
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