Sports medicine doctors can play an important role in keeping professional athletes on the playing field, but even non-athletes can benefit from this type of medicine, says Rajeev Pandarinath, MD, who is board-certified in orthopedic surgery and orthopedic sports medicine. Here, he discusses the game plan for this medical specialty.
What is sports medicine?
Sports medicine focuses largely on finding ways to prolong the life and function of joints, from shoulders and hips to knees and ankles. In many cases, this may involve minimally invasive surgical treatments. Non-operative treatment may also sometimes be recommended, such as physical therapy or modifying activities for a while.
When should I see a sports medicine doctor?
If you have an injury to one of your joints with swelling or difficulty using it, and it's not getting better after trying an anti-inflammatory and resting it for a few days, that's when you'd want to see someone. Care can be comprehensive. You may see your primary care provider or an orthopedic surgeon, and then possibly a physical therapist, non-operative sports medicine doctor, or sports psychologist.
What types of conditions are included under the sports medicine umbrella?
Sports medicine can address a wide range of issues. Examples may include ligament injuries, cartilage injuries and repairing unstable joints.
What makes a sports medicine specialist different from a general orthopedic surgeon?
Sports medicine involves an extra year of training mainly in arthroscopic surgery, using a camera to manipulate things in the joint without making larger incisions, thereby minimizing the amount of recovery time.* It also includes team coverage, evaluating athletes on and off the field. We all have a clock on our joints. As people are living longer and remaining active in recreational sports, there's more of a need for sports medicine.
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*Individual results may vary