Sports MedicineSports medicine refers to health services to prevent, diagnose, treat, manage, and rehabilitate injuries related to sport, exercise, or recreational activity.  Treatments for injuries incurred range from physical therapy to reconstructive and restorative surgery.   Professionals including orthopedic surgeons, team physicians, and certified athletic trainers, work together to manage the injury and recovery.  In  addition to treating and rehabilitating injuries, these skilled professional work with the individual to improve athletic performance.  Finding the right sports medicine professional to work with you makes the difference in your overall health.

Sports Medicine and Injuries

Sports MedicineSports medicine generally deals with sports injuries classified as either traumatic or overuse injuries.  Traumatic injuries occur commonly in contact sports such as football, soccer, and rugby.  The speed and high collision nature of these sports result in injuries ranging from bruises and sprains to concussion, fractures, and ligament and tendon damage.  There are sixteen major body parts that typically incur traumatic sports injuries.  Overuse injuries occur more gradually.  As the name suggests, they are the result of overusing a specific part of the body.  Runners, for example, commonly experience knee and ankle overuse injuries.  Athletic trainers, physicians, surgeons, and coaches work as a sports medicine team whose primary focus is to restore the health of the injured athlete. 

Sports Medicine and Surgeons

Sports MedicineSurgeons are a key part of any sports medicine team.  Traumatic sports injuries often lead to bone fractures as well as ligament and tendon tears.  Orthopedic surgeons are highly skilled professionals providing both surgical and non-surgical solutions to sports injuries.  When surgery is required, it is important to select a surgical sports medicine orthopedic.  This is a highly specialized area of orthopedic medicine.  These surgeons typically have 13 years of formal education.  In addition, continuing education and understanding of new technologies and procedures is required.  Above all, experience is a critical factor.  The knowledge, training, and experience of a specialized surgical orthopedic plays a major role in the outcome of the procedure.  Sports medicine orthopedics focus their knowledge and talent on restoring the health of the athlete, and returning them to competition.

Sports Medicine and Athletic Trainers

Sports MedicineThe sports medicine team also includes Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC’s), specialists in the health care of physical activity.  These professionals have the closest contact with the athlete.  They are focused on the prevention of injury and care for the injured or ill athlete.  They serve as the immediate care giver and a liason between the team physician, coach, parent, and the athlete.  They are the first responders from the sports medicine team to an injured athlete during a sporting event. 

Sports MedicineThe certified athletic trainer also serves as the point person on the sports medicine team in the daily treatment, exercise, and recovery protocol for the athlete.  Working under the supervision of the team physician, their overall responsibility is to evaluate and assess the injury and recommend a treatment program.  Athletic trainers are, themselves, highly trained in techniques for rehabilitating injuries.  Their responsibilities include:

  • On-field injury assessment and management
  • Unbiased decisions regarding an athlete’s return to sport participation
  • Assessment and appropriate management of sport-related emergencies such as concussions and heat-related injurues and illnesses
  • Design & implementation of  physical therapy and injury rehabilitation protocols
  • Recommended protective sport equipment, including fitting.
  • Emergency removal of sport equipment.
  • Applying tape, bandages, and braces to prevent injury and protect already injured body parts.
  • Working with the athlete to regain health, phsycial activity, and full sport participation
  • Maintenance and availability of medical and first aid supplies and equipment
  • Maintaining medical records and reports of rehab progress. 

Sports Medicine and Team Physicians

Sports MedicineThe team physician is the cornerstone of the sports medicine team.  The principle responsibility of the team physician is to provide for the well-being of the athlete.  He or she promotes the success of the athletic training program, is available for emergencies, prescribes and monitors the recovery from an injury or illness.  Responsibilities include:

  • Supervising pre-participation physical & medical history
  • Making decisions regarding the medical care of an athlete
  • Using his or her medical expertise to integrate the expertise of the other sports medicine team members
  • Clearing players for return to participation after an injury or illness
  • Working with the athletic trainer(s) and physical therapists to develop a treatment and recovery program for the athlete
  • Prescribing/monitoring medicine

Sports Medicine and The Athlete

Sports MedicineIt is ultimately the athlete that is the most important member of the sports medicine team.  His or her commitment to recovery determines if an injury is career ending or concludes with a  return to sport participation.  In addition to being the focus of the other team members, the athlete’s responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining good physical condition.  The athlete is responsible for performing the strength, conditioning and flexibility exercises required for sport participation. 
  • Working with the athletic trainer in the selection and fitting of protective equipment.  The athlete is ultimately responsible for wearing protective equipment during sport participation.
  • Safe participation in the sport, in other words, playing by the rules.
  • Following all instruction of the coaches, physicans and certified athletic trainers.

Sports Medicine and The Parent

Sports MedicineParents assist the sports medicine team by being role models to the student athlete.  Parents should emphasize to their children the importance of fair play, character building, honesty, and teamwork when participating in sports.  The parent has specific responsibilities for the student athlete’s health and injury recovery including:

  • Keeping the child healthy
  • Emphasizing the priority of lifetime health goals over further injury risk for immediate sports achievement. 
  • Monitoring the recommended treatment programs at home
  • Fully supporting the sports medicine team’s recommendation for participation and rest periods

The Best Sports Medicine – Injury Prevention

Sports MedicineThe best sports medicine treatment is the prevention of injury.  Athletes need to partner with certified athletic trainers as well as strength and conditioning coaches before participating in sports activities.  In addition to a complete physical exam, setting realistic goals is important to participating in and enjoying sports.  Regardless of the sport you choose, there are certain keys, common to most, for preventing injury including:

  • An effective warm up program.  As the name states, warming up and stretching muscles prior to a sports activity increases muscle flexibility and range of motion. 
  • Time Off.  All athletes, regardless of age, require rest for sports requiring musculoskeletal and cardiovascular stress.  To participate in a sport for an extended period of time, years, requires regular periods of rest, months.   
  • Wearing the Right Gear.  Properly fitted, sport appropriate, protective gear is key to injury prevention.
  • Strength and conditioning exercises build stamina and muscle needed for the stress of athletic competition.  Muscles provide strength, movement, and protection of body parts.
  • Increased flexibility is afforded by the right kinds of stretching exercise modalities.  The greater the flexibility and range of motion of soft tissue, the less susceptible to injury it is.
  • Rest periods during practice and games.  These are important to the prevention of fatigue and heat related injuries.

Sports Medicine Treatment and Management

Sports MedicineSports medicine includes treatment and management of  injuries by using the P.R.I.C.E.S. and T.O.T.A.P.S regimes.  These are widely accepted regimes in a variety of stress related sports.  Each of the acronyms spells out a treatment protocol for treating acute injuries.  An acute injury is one in which there is a specific mechanism, (being hit by a ball, tackled by a player), and an immediate onset of symptons, (bruises, swelling, sprain, fracture).  The P.R.I.C.E. protocol includes:

  • P – Protect.  Protection of body parts with the appropriate equipment to avoid injury.
  • R – Rest.  Allow the body’s own healing processes to occur without movement of the injured area.
  • I – Ice.  Ice will decrease muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation to bone and soft tissue.  During an initial injury, tissue damage can cause uncontrolled swelling. This swelling can increase the damage of the initial injury and delay healing time.
  • C- Compression.  Following ice therapy, a compression wtrap serves as a mechanical barrier to reduce swelling in the injured area.
  • E – Elevation.  Elevation is important immediately post-injury to reduce the amount of blood flow to the injured area.

T.O.T.A.P.S. is a sports medicine injury diagnosis that can be used for sideline management of many acute injuries.  It is not approriate for neck or back injuries, or for unconscious athletes.

  • T – Talk
  • O  – Observe
  • T – Touch
  • A – Active Movement
  • P – Passive Movement
  • S – Skills Test

Sports medicine professionals team to prevent, manage, and treat sports injuries.