Sports physicians are concerned with promoting health in athletes, whether professional or amateur. In the professional field, a sports physician works alongside a multi-disciplinary team that includes sports psychologists, nurses, nutritionists and physical therapists, according to Degree Directory. The doctor may be in family practice or an orthopedic surgeon, depending on the specialty. Sports physicians work long, hard hours, but the job can be extremely rewarding, both financially and mentally.
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When working with professional athletes, a sports physician’s first consideration is to prevent injuries. He examines the athletes before they perform, establishing their fitness level and determining whether they have any predispositions to injuries. A sports physician collaborates with sports medicine organizations and keeps up-to-date with recent studies, to offer evidence-based practice at all times.
When an athlete injures herself, the sports physician treats the initial injury, orders diagnostic procedures such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans when necessary and diagnoses the problem. If the athlete can't return to her sport, it is also the physician’s role to liaise with psychologists, physical therapists, trainers and other team members to help her in her recovery and rehabilitation.
The sports physician also plays an integral role in treating injuries when they occur on the field or in the gym. He works closely with physiotherapists and nurses to ensure that the athletes receive the best treatment available for their injuries, so they can return to their sport fully recovered from their injuries. The physician may also run clinics on injury prevention and treatment, and give advice on the current recommended physiotherapeutic techniques for specific injuries.
Sports medicine requires complete commitment to the job, as it usually involves long hours in different settings, including hospitals, clinics and sports arenas. A sports physician may specialize in a specific sport, focusing on swimming, running or football, or take a more general approach to individual and team sports, working with several athletes or teams.
Orthopedic surgeons are often classed as sports physicians, as they treat musculoskeletal conditions related to sports injuries. It takes time and commitment to become a surgeon. After qualifying as a medical doctor, you should do a one to two year surgical sports medicine fellowship to further your experience. This fellowship may be generalized, or focus on a specific area of the body, such as the shoulder or knee.
As of June 2009, a sports physician in the United States can expect an annual salary between $117,587 and $369,955, according to DegreeDirectory.org. The average salary lies between $171,470 and $305,910. Orthopedic surgeons usually earn more, with the middle 50 percent earning between $308,139 and $494,162.