Millions of Americans are involved in sports and physical exercise. From little league to the local cycling and running clubs to the weekend warrior and even the elderly who are beginning an exercise program for the health benefits. Sports are a part of most of our lives in one aspect or another. Traditionally the field of sports medicine has dealt with musculoskeletal injuries sustained by the athlete and has been a responsibility assumed by the orthopaedic surgeon. With the continued rapid growth of sport involvement, however, it became clear that this large athletic population had specific medical needs. This spurred the development of a new medical subspecialty. In the 1980's several primary care doctors who had been caring for athletes started the field of primary care sports medicine.
Today primary care sports medicine physicians have completed residency training in family medicine or other primary care specialties, and then go on to do advanced fellowship training in sports medicine. They study musculoskeletal injuries common in athletes but also look at how athletics affect the cardiovascular, respiratory and other body systems. Their training specializes in all aspects of medicine as it relates to the athlete and sports participation. Many of these physicians are or were athletes themselves and so they have firsthand experience of how illnesses and injuries can affect athletes.
In recent years this field has grown rapidly. Primary care sports medicine physicians are now some of the leaders in the field of sports medicine. They are involved in research to prevent injuries, develop new non-surgical treatment options and improve rehabilitation modalities and techniques. They work closely with orthopaedic surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists and coaches to coordinate care for a quick and safe return to competition.
Whether it is an acute, chronic or overuse injury, your primary care sports medicine physician is able to evaluate the injury and develop a plan of care. Many primary care sports medicine physicians are also trained in using musculoskeletal ultrasound to look dynamically at the muscles, tendons and even ligaments to aid in diagnosis. This can also be used to guide injections into a joint or the injured area within a tendon. With an emphasis on rehabilitation modalities and techniques, injections or bracing, the goal is to return the athlete to competition at their previous level of play or to know when surgery is necessary to achieve that goal.
In addition to musculoskeletal injuries, primary care sports medicine physicians care for all illnesses and conditions related to athletics. From a concussion during a football game, to returning an athlete after having mono or dealing with a skin infection in a wrestler, they can make these determinations while understanding the urgency to get the athlete playing again.
Although the training focuses on athletes, musculoskeletal injuries are very common in the workplace and in everyday life. Most primary care sports medicine physicians care for both athletes and non-athletes alike who have a musculoskeletal injury or problem that needs evaluation. The goal remains the same, to get that person back to what they want to be doing as quickly as possible.