Sporting an Injury? When to See a Sports Medicine Doctor

Watching endless hours of college hoops this month inspires you and few buddies to hit the courts. Afterall, the thrill of victory never goes away. Unfortunately, after going up for a rebound, you come down on another player’s foot and you end up with a twisted, painful and swollen ankle.

As with any athletic activity, the agony of the feet, hand or shoulder injury goes along with the territory. It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend warrior, active adult, or youth or professional athlete, bone and joint problems don’t discriminate.

You want to get back in the game, so to speak, but at what point do you take your injury to the next level and see a sports medicine doctor?

What is a Sports Medicine Doctor?

Many people think sports medicine doctors only treat professional athletes. Not true. A sports medicine doctor is a doctor with extra training in conditions that often affect not just professional athletes, but anyone active in sports or just physically active in general.

Sports Medicine Physicians specialize in the non-operative treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Trained in both the treatment and prevention of illness and injury, sports medicine physicians are well qualified to provide comprehensive medical care for athletes or active individuals who simply want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Difference Between a Sports Medicine Doctor and Primary Physician

If you have a general medical issue or a small injury, you should see your primary physician. If your primary physician thinks you need specialized care, he or she might refer you to a sports medicine physician. The difference between a sports medicine doctor and a primary care doctor is that a sports medicine doctor looks at you as the whole athlete. He or she will give you a diagnosis and a treatment plan, and also look at what caused the injury, examine your nutrition and provide an exercise program that can often help you perform better in the future.

When to See a Sports Medicine Doctor

  • If you have an injury that doesn’t improve in two weeks, even after you’ve seen your primary care doctor
  • If you have a complicated injury related to overtraining or overuse, like shin splints
  • If you have a chronic condition, like tendonitis in your shoulder, knee or hip
  • If you have a sports injury that requires surgery
  • If you have a sports injury that causes a concussion
  • If you are an athlete with chronic or acute conditions, like asthma, diabetes or mononucleosis

In addition to providing comprehensive medical care for both athletes and non-athletes, sports medicine physicians are excellent resources for those who want to become active or begin and exercise program.

Just Getting Started?

A sports medicine doctor can also help you prevent injuries if you are starting a new sport, physical activity or exercise. A wellness visit to a sports medicine physician might include:

  • A physical exam to make sure the sport or activity is safe for you
  • Recommendations of warm-up, stretching and cool-down routines and exercises or a conditioning program that can get you fit for the activity
  • Advice on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle

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