How do I Become a Sports Medicine Physician?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
Injuries are common in sports.
Injuries are common in sports.

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.

A sports medicine physician may treat sports-related knee injuries.
A sports medicine physician may treat sports-related knee injuries.

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.

A sports medicine physician may recommend a surgeon to handle severe injuries, such as ACL tears.
A sports medicine physician may recommend a surgeon to handle severe injuries, such as ACL tears.

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.

Some doctors who specialize in treating sports-related injuries work at a sports injury clinic.
Some doctors who specialize in treating sports-related injuries work at a sports injury clinic.

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.

Sports medicine physicians may work with local schools to make sure student athletes stay healthy.
Sports medicine physicians may work with local schools to make sure student athletes stay healthy.

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.

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Discussion Comments

Animandel

@Laotionne - As you can see from reading this article, becoming a sports medicine physician will take time and dedication. You might want to consider becoming a sports therapist initially. This way you can get an idea of what the world of sports medicine is all about, and then you can decide whether you want to actually go further and become a physician.

Therapists do great work helping people return to form after injuries and helping older people remain active when they are having physical problems.

Feryll

@Laotionne - I talk with the trainer who helps gym members with their training routines where I work out. He says he got into the sports medicine field by accident. He played football in college for a couple years before he was injured. He enjoyed working out, even when his football career was over.

He took classes to become an athletic trainer while he was working as a weight room attendant at the gym. Once he got certified, he says he had several jobs to choose from, and he also works as a private trainer for individuals who want a more focused workout session.

Athletic trainers are in high demand, and the market is predicted to grow by about 20 percent over the next several years. The guy also works as part-time athletic trainer with a local high school football team.

Laotionne

I am interested in health related fields. I am at a point where I would like to get into a field that I can make into a life-long career. I don't know that I want to become a sports medicine physician, but I would like to get into sports medicine in some way. Does anyone know what the job outlook is like in this field?

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    • Injuries are common in sports.
      Injuries are common in sports.
    • A sports medicine physician may treat sports-related knee injuries.
      A sports medicine physician may treat sports-related knee injuries.
    • A sports medicine physician may recommend a surgeon to handle severe injuries, such as ACL tears.
      A sports medicine physician may recommend a surgeon to handle severe injuries, such as ACL tears.
    • Some doctors who specialize in treating sports-related injuries work at a sports injury clinic.
      Some doctors who specialize in treating sports-related injuries work at a sports injury clinic.
    • Sports medicine physicians may work with local schools to make sure student athletes stay healthy.
      Sports medicine physicians may work with local schools to make sure student athletes stay healthy.