Sports Medicine is one of the newest fields of medical specialisation in South Africa. It’s a branch of medicine that deals primarily with the treatment and prevention of sports- and exercise-related injuries. Also referred to as Sports and Exercise Medicine (SEM), this young and exciting area of medicine has grown rapidly in popularity since the 1970s. As more and more people embrace healthier lifestyles that incorporate increased physical exercise, the demand for sports doctors is increasing every year. This makes SEM a highly valuable specialisation.
Sports medicine physicians are either orthopaedic surgeons or primary care physicians who prescribe treatments for professional and amateur athletes. They may work in a variety of environments, including high schools, universities, hospitals, medical clinics, physical therapy practices, professional sports organisations. They can also work in private practice.
Becoming a sports doctor, as with all medical careers, takes time, hard work and dedication. You first have to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, in which you complete pre-medical courses at undergraduate level. Some of the subjects you can expect to take include biology, physics, organic and inorganic chemistry, English and maths. Thereafter, you have to apply to Medical School to complete your Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. It is notoriously difficult to gain admission into med school, so it helps if, prior to applying, you gain some experience in a healthcare environment – even if it’s on an unpaid basis.
A Doctor of Medicine degree is a four-year degree, the last two of which also include clinical rotations. Once you’ve successfully completed medical school, you then become a resident before finally specialising further in sports medicine. SEM could be your first or second speciality, after, for example, orthopaedic surgery.
What Does A Sports Doctor Do?
Sports medicine physicians have extensive education in musculoskeletal medicine. They treat people with injuries obtained while playing sport or doing some kind of physical exercise. When sports medicine as a discipline was still gaining credibility and popularity, most sports doctors only worked with professional, or highly competitive, sports people. Nowadays, however, anyone who acquires an injury through physical activity is best treated by a sports doctor.
As well as treating injuries, sports doctors are trained to identify and address related issues, such as nutrition, sports psychology, and even substance abuse. Typical job duties include:
- Diagnosing and treating athletic injuries.
- Developing treatment and rehabilitation strategies.
- Consulting with patients about how their recovery is progressing.
- Prescribing anti-inflammatory and other medication when necessary.
Orthopaedic surgeons often also specialise as sports doctors because of their extensive training and experience in musculoskeletal medicine. They are highly knowledgeable when it comes to treating injuries and conditions such as fractures, strains and sprains obtained during physical activity. These injuries are most commonly as a result of overuse, but can also be caused by once-off traumas, such as torn ligaments or broken bones.
In addition to treating muscle, tendon, ligament and bone injuries, sports medicine physicians also deal with chronic illnesses – such as diabetes, cardiac abnormalities and asthma – that can affect sports performance.
Sports medicine, as a discipline, focuses on helping all people – not just professional athletes – improve their physical performance. A sports doctor not only helps in the immediate treatment of an injury but also in the longer-term rehabilitation of that injury so that the person concerned can regain full use of the injured area as quickly as possible. They also assist people with disabilities to increase their mobility and capabilities.
How Do Sports Doctors Treat Injuries?
A sports medicine physician or orthopaedic sports doctor will always first try the least invasive approach when treating a sports-related injury. Occasionally, exploratory surgery may be needed to more accurately assess the nature and severity of an injury, but major surgery is only used a last resort. Pain management and physical rehabilitation therapy are the most common approaches.
At Health in Motion, we believe in thoroughly exploring all medically sound options. We conduct comprehensive assessments to help us tailor-make a treatment plan best suited to you. We understand that living with pain, arthritis, joints injuries or other symptoms is exhausting and frustrating, so we will do our best to restore you to optimal health as quickly as possible.
Our specialist orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Baba, is trained as a sports medicine physician, and will accurately assess, and effectively treat all sports-related trauma. You don’t have to be in pain – make an appointment with Dr. Baba today.