Sports medicine physicians treat patients who suffer from sport- or exercise-related injuries. In addition to providing general medical care, they work closely with physical therapists, nutritionists, and trainers to develop quality rehabilitation services and preventive exercise programs for athletes. A person who wants to become a sports medicine physician must first complete medical school, a general residency training program, and a specialty fellowship. After passing requisite licensing exams, a professional can become a sports medicine physician in a specialty clinic or private practice.
An individual who wants to become a sports medicine physician can enroll in a four-year bachelor's degree program at a college or university. Most future medical doctors major in biology or a health-related field with a premedical studies concentration. In addition to taking lecture and laboratory courses, a student may have the option to obtain an internship position with a local university or high school sports team, helping trainers assess and treat injuries. A student can submit medical school applications and take admissions tests during the third and fourth year of college.
Once accepted into an accredited, four-year medical school, a person can meet with advisers and professors to determine the best course of study to become a sports medicine physician. The first two years of medical school are typically dedicated to classroom and laboratory studies, providing students with detailed instruction in anatomy, physiology, organic chemistry, disease pathology, and other important subjects. The second half of a program typically includes continuing lab work and rotating internships at a hospital, giving prospective doctors a chance to observe experienced professionals.
After earning a degree, a new professional may choose to participate in an additional one-year internship or join a residency program in internal medicine, emergency medicine, or family practice. A resident gets to work directly with patients under the supervision and guidance of established physicians. Most residency programs last for about four years, during which time a new doctor is gradually given more responsibilities as he or she becomes more familiar with procedures.
A successful resident can choose to take licensing tests and begin working in general practice immediately, but a person who wants to become a sports medicine physician usually needs to continue his or her training in a two-year fellowship. Sports medicine fellowships are designed to expose new doctors to the types of acute injuries and chronic conditions they are likely to address throughout their careers. After completing a fellowship, a doctor can earn board certification and the right to start practicing independently by passing an extensive written test.