Sports medicine is the practice of diagnosing, healing and rehabilitating patients from injuries or illnesses that occur through their participation in sports or athletic activities. Young athletes of all ages, weekend warriors and seniors who wish to keep fit can all benefit at times from sports medical services.
Treatment for sports injuries can involve certified athletic trainers, primary care physicians and osteopaths, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and exercise physiologists. They treat sports related injuries of the neck, back and spine, hip, knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, and hand. Though many might call themselves a “sports medicine” specialist, this category is not recognized as such by the medical community in the U.S. So sports medicine doctors begin achieving such recognition by initially completing medical training, residency and certification in another area of study: most often in the fields of Orthopedics or Osteopathy.
Once they have received their respective degrees and complete their residency, they enroll in a one to two year sports medicine fellowship program. Osteopathic sports medicine doctors are more likely to be non-surgical or primary care givers. Orthopedic surgeons typically focus on surgical patient care.
Accreditation is mandatory before representing themselves as a sports medicine specialist. The organizations that certify these physicians are the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) for medical doctors; and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists for Osteopaths.
Surgical fellows concentrate their studies on surgical techniques for sports injuries. Non-surgical fellows focus on diagnostics, non-surgical treatments, and rehabilitation. There is some overlap as both categories of these sports medicine doctors must gain perspective on the issues and treatments used by the other. And both groups of fellows learn how to apply their new specialty to their original one (such as pediatrics, neurology, internal medicine, etc).
The healthcare community and the public view D.O.’s (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) and M.D.’s (Medical Doctors) similarly. But the manner in which they treat patients can be different. Unlike M.D.’s Osteopaths, perform hands-on manipulation to injuries, not unlike a physical therapist or exercise physiologist. However, they are not limited to this course of treatment. Osteopaths also perform traditional medical treatments, surgery, and can prescribe drugs. But the AMA only recognizes D.O.’s and M.D.’s as licensed sports medicine doctors.
Commonly – especially for weekend warriors and seniors – family doctors are often the entry for treatment to a minor sports injury. But if further treatment is needed for wounds or other serious injury, your family doctor calls in a specialist; be it a primary care sports medicine doctor for an acute injury, or a physical therapist if your primary care physician diagnoses nothing more than a severely pulled muscle. It should be noted that since sports medicine is not a specialty, and with more and more Americans remaining active longer, many primary care physicians keep abreast of advancements in this field.
If you wish to find a primary care sports medicine doctor in your area, contact your local, state, or the national office of the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.
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