If you are an athlete, you may have heard the term orthopedic sports medicine. Physicians that practice in this field have expertise in two critical areas of medicine: orthopedics and sports. 

You may have already figured out that this doctor treats athletes, both professional and amateur, but is there more to it? What exactly is orthopedic sports medicine? 

What is Orthopedic Sports Medicine?

Technically, this is a subspecialty of both orthopedic and sports medicine. To understand it, you need to know what those specialties represent. 

Orthopedics is the surgery and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones and joints plus everything that holds them together like:

  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments

Even nerves can fall into this category as they relate to pain and movement. Someone who breaks their elbow in a car crash would likely see an orthopedic specialist for repair and treatment. 

Sports medicine focuses more on physical fitness including the treatment and prevention of sports-related injuries. Like orthopedic practitioners, doctors of sports medicine attend medical school and residency training then continue their education further to specialize in the treatment and prevention of exercise-based injuries. 

When you combine these two specialties, you have a doctor that treats musculoskeletal injuries and disorders related to exercise or sports. Physicians can maintain private practices and many also work for schools or professional sports teams. 

Who Needs Orthopedics Sports Medicine? 

An orthopedic sports specialist has additional training in the treatment of exercise or sports-related injuries, especially when they involve the musculoskeletal system. In most cases, you should see your primary care physician first and then get a referral, especially if your not sure if your insurance requires it. 

You might also see a specialist if you want to avoid sports injuries like tennis elbow or other repetitive use injuries. As the name suggests, repetitive use injuries occur because your body moves a specific way over and over. 

When someone develops tennis elbow, for example, they can suffer from chronic pain due to overuse of the tendons and muscles in the back of the forearm. Often prevention is the best medicine for overuse or strain sports injuries such as: 

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Wrist tendonitis
  • Wrist bursitis
  • Shin Splints
  • Muscle strain
  • Stress fracture

This physician can also provide tips to reduce the risk of serious problems like a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and traumatic brain injury common in high impact sports. The practice would handle the prevention and treatment of diseases that result from activity or sports injuries like arthritis, too. 

Does It Always Involve Surgery? 

Surgery may be part of the care plan for a sports injury but not always. The doctor has the training to be able to evaluate the problem, make a diagnosis, order tests and imaging to verify it and then to develop a comprehensive care plan. Repairing a sports injury typically involves a number of therapeutic approaches including:

  • Immobilization
  • Pain management
  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy

The doctor may recommend alternative therapies, too, like acupuncture or chiropractic treatment

It’s also a common myth that only professional athletes need orthopedic sports medicine. The truth is anyone who stays active can benefit from this specialty. For instance, people who have had a previous sports injury, who are getting started with a new fitness plan, who go to the gym for exercise regularly or even just shoots hoops with friends should consider if orthopedic sports medicine is the right choice. 

If you think the answer to that question is yes, contact BackFit Health + Spine today to make an appointment and get the care you need. 

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