What does a Sports Medicine Physician do?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2018
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A sports medicine physician is a trained medical professional who diagnoses and treats injuries resulting from sports-related activities. The most common types of injuries treated by this type of doctor include sprains, strains, broken bones, knee injuries, and low back injuries. From exercising to fitness training and playing contact sports, there are many ways to suffer an injury that may need treatment from this kind of doctor. Often, a great deal of the physician's time will be dedicated to treating athletes suffering from a variety of physical injuries. This doctor is trained in treating anyone with a sports-related injury, however, as well as in advising him or her on ways to prevent these types of injuries from occurring.

In most cases, a doctor who specializes in sports medicine will do a range of activities on a daily basis. Some of their most common patients are athletes, since sport injuries are very common and most athletic activities involve very forceful play. Once an athlete has been injured, he or she may consult with a specialist for an evaluation of his or her injury. After completing an evaluation, the doctor may need to refer the patient to another doctor; for instance, a surgeon may be recommended in the event of severe injuries such as ACL tears.


Often, a sports medicine physician will treat an individual who is not an athlete, but who has become injured while participating in some sports-related activity. This can include any activity, from exercising to taking part in a recreational sport, and some of the most common injuries resulting from these of activities include sprains and strains. A sprain can occur when there is an injury to a ligament, while an injury to a muscle or tendon will generally result in a tendon or muscle strain. Physicians specializing in sports medicine may prescribe pain medications and rest to individuals with such injuries.

The doctor may also spend a lot of time treating bone breaks, also called fractures. If the physician suspects a person has a broken bone, he or she may order a variety of diagnostic tests, including an X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to make an accurate diagnosis. After a diagnosis is made, he or she will then be able to prescribe the best treatment method, which may include a brace to immobilize the fractured body part.

In most cases, a sports medicine physician may work closely with other professionals to ensure that patients receive the best quality of care. Many work with physical therapists after prescribing therapy as part of a patient's treatment plan. The physician may help the therapist to determine which exercises will be most beneficial to the recovery of the patient, and he or she may also track the person's progress while in therapy. Sports medicine specialists may work independently out of a private office or be part of a group practice.


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