Sports Medicine or Sportsmedicine: Prevention As Much As Treatment of Athletes and Exercise Advocates

Sports medicine specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating injuries related to participating in sports and/or exercise. Sports medicine providers, or the “sports medicine team includes physician specialists, surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors, personal trainers, strength coaches, team coaches, sports psychologists, emergency paramedics and other providers (see more information about Sports Medicine provider in the SUPPORT TEAM section). Proactive action on the part of the athlete puts an emphasis on the athlete as a part of the “Sports Medicine Team” as well.

The primary goal of sports medicine is speedy recovery of patients for the purpose of rapid return to training and competing in the athlete’s sport. Many innovations in the field of sports medicine with early return to effective function of joints and muscles has led to successful protocols for all patients of medical special populations (not exclusive to athletes).

Because of the prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries in sports — from trauma and repetitive, overuse injuries — sports medicine is most commonly associated with orthopedic specialists. The orthopedic specialty probably brought the greatest visibility to the field of sports medicine, as it evolved. Many orthopedic specialists stand by at high school and college football games; and professional football teams hire orthopedic specialists to be ready at the sidelines to provide medical services, if necessary. Repetitive injuries from long distance running are often treated by orthopedic specialists, as well. However, as the field of Sports Medicine became more defined, other medical specialists and paramedical personnel evolved to provide a spectrum of care for athletes. Care of the athlete ranges from preventing injuries, preventing illnesses, providing optimal nutrition, providing optimal training protocols, and promoting safety and risk reduction of the playing field and the sports environment (obstacles, playing surface, weather, heat and cold). For every specific condition that may challenge an athlete (from biomechanical abnormalities to pregnancy to aging) there is a specialist to consider for the assistance of optimal performance, safety and wellness.

Sports medicine involves health care professionals, researchers and educators from a wide variety of studies. Sports medicine science studies include, but are not limited to, biomechanics, cardiology, exercise physiology, dentistry, dermatology, endocrinology, ergonomics and human factors, histology, industrial design & engineering, immunology, infectious disease, meteorology (weather exposure), neurology (including motor unit and neuromuscular adapatation), nutrition, ophthalmology, pharmacology, podiatry, psychology, pulmonology, radiology, rehabilitation medicine, safety engineering and traumatology.

Sports medicine also involves ethical, legal and health considerations regarding training methods & intensity, doping control, gender verification and the balance of risks of striving to win and the wellness and long-term health of the athlete.

Knowledge acquired from medical specialists about mechanisms of injuries, training practices and injuries that occur during competition lead to greater understanding of how to prevent injuries and illnesses. Medical specialists are quick to advise on many methods of preventing mishaps in athletics. A major component of Sports Medicine prevention has introduced science from non-medical fields to the “Sports Medicine Team.” Following are examples of non-medical sciences that help the “Sports Medicine Team.”

Examples of industrial design in sports medicine include padded posts, spatial safety margins on playing fields, helmet design, break-away bases, and clothing technology to prevent heat stress and cold injuries and improve comfort and performance.

Examples in meteorology include heat index for preventing heat stress, wind chill and cold weather forecasting for protecting from cold injury, and lightning protocols for reducing the risk of lightning strike injuries and fatalities.

More information on the “Sport Medicine Team” — Medical Provider