Career Development

What Does a Sports Medicine Physician Do?

Find out what a sports medicine physician does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a sports medicine physician.

A sports medicine physician is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of athletes. They commonly treat injuries, illnesses and other conditions that affect people who are physically active.

Sports medicine physicians may also provide general care to patients who aren’t athletes but have health issues related to physical activity or exercise. This might include treating chronic pain, obesity, heart disease, etc.

Sports Medicine Physician Job Duties

Sports medicine physicians have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Arranging for the use of diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines or MRI scanners, as appropriate to diagnose injuries
  • Performing surgery to repair bones and other tissues damaged by injury or disease
  • Prescribing physical therapy, acupuncture, or massage therapy to treat patients’ injuries
  • Evaluating and diagnosing athletes’ physical condition and injuries to recommend treatment plans or refer them to specialists as needed
  • Providing primary care to patients with acute musculoskeletal injuries or illnesses
  • Performing examinations of patients to evaluate their health status and identify any issues that may require further medical attention
  • Ordering diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and blood work to identify any underlying health problems that may contribute to the patient’s pain or discomfort
  • Prescribing medication to patients who are not improving with other forms of treatment
  • Providing instruction on proper exercise and conditioning techniques to prevent future injuries from occurring

Sports Medicine Physician Salary & Outlook

Sports medicine physicians’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of sports they treat.

  • Median Annual Salary: $175,000 ($84.13/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $371,500 ($178.61/hour)

The employment of sports medicine physicians is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

An aging population will lead to more injuries and illnesses that require treatment from sports medicine specialists. In addition, the popularity of high-risk activities such as rock climbing and extreme sports is likely to increase demand for sports medicine services.

Related: In-Depth Sports Medicine Physician Salary Guide

Sports Medicine Physician Job Requirements

A sports medicine physician typically needs to have the following:

Education: Most sports medicine physicians have a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Some sports medicine physicians choose to specialize in a particular sport or type of sport. To do so, they complete a residency program in sports medicine.

Residency programs in sports medicine typically last three years and include rotations in different specialties, such as orthopedics, physical therapy, and sports psychology.

Training & Experience: After medical school, you will need to complete a residency program. Residency programs are typically three years long and allow you to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. You will work under the supervision of a licensed physician who will help guide you through the process. You will also be able to network with other professionals in the field.

After completing a residency program, you will need to complete a fellowship program. Fellowships are typically one to two years long and allow you to specialize in a specific area of sports medicine. You will work under the supervision of a licensed physician who will help guide you through the process. You will also be able to network with other professionals in the field.

Certifications & Licenses: A sports medicine physician needs to be licensed to practice in their state. Each state has its own requirements for licensure. Typically, sports medicine physicians need to pass an exam after completing a residency.

Sports Medicine Physician Skills

Sports medicine physicians need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is another important skill for sports medicine physicians. They often communicate with patients to explain diagnoses and treatment plans. They also communicate with other medical professionals to ensure their patients receive the best care possible.

Teamwork: Teamwork is the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal. As a sports medicine physician, you may work with other medical professionals, such as physical therapists, athletic trainers and other physicians, to help patients recover from injuries. You may also work with athletes to help them prevent injuries and improve their performance.

Time management: When working with patients, sports medicine physicians need to prioritize their treatment plans. This means they need to assess each patient’s needs and develop a treatment plan that addresses those needs. This can include prioritizing patients based on their needs and the severity of their conditions.

Problem-solving: A sports medicine physician needs to be able to solve problems and make quick decisions. They may need to make decisions about the best treatment for an injury, determine if an athlete can continue to participate in their sport or if an athlete needs to be referred to a specialist. They may also need to make decisions about how to prevent injuries and illnesses in their athletes.

Adaptability: Adaptability is the ability to change and adjust to new situations. As a sports medicine physician, you may work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals and schools. You may also work with a variety of patients, including professional athletes, recreational athletes and those who are not active. Your ability to adapt to these situations can help you be successful in your career.

Sports Medicine Physician Work Environment

Sports medicine physicians work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private offices, and sports facilities. They typically work full time, and some may work more than 40 hours per week. They may also be on call 24 hours a day, which means they may need to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Sports medicine physicians typically work long hours, and their work can be physically and emotionally demanding. They may be required to travel to see patients or to attend conferences.

Sports Medicine Physician Trends

Here are three trends influencing how sports medicine physicians work. Sports medicine physicians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Sports Medicine

The growth of sports medicine is a trend that is seeing increasing popularity among athletes and their families. This is due to the fact that sports medicine physicians are able to provide a wide range of services, including diagnosis and treatment of injuries, rehabilitation, and preventive care.

As more and more athletes turn to sports medicine professionals for help, sports medicine physicians will need to be prepared to meet the needs of these patients. This includes having a strong understanding of the latest treatments and technologies, as well as being able to communicate effectively with patients and their families.

More Focus on Preventative Care

Preventative care is becoming an increasingly important focus in the world of sports medicine. This is because it can help to prevent injuries and other health problems before they occur.

Sports medicine physicians can take advantage of this trend by focusing on providing preventative care to their patients. This can include things like screenings for potential injuries, educating patients about how to stay healthy, and helping them to develop a fitness routine that is right for them.

A Greater Emphasis on Team-Based Care

Team-based care is becoming an increasingly popular model for medical care. In team-based care, patients are cared for by a team of doctors and other healthcare professionals, rather than just one individual.

This model has been shown to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, and it is also cost-effective for hospitals and insurance companies. As a result, sports medicine physicians will need to learn how to work as part of a team in order to provide the best possible care for their patients.

How to Become a Sports Medicine Physician

A career as a sports medicine physician offers many opportunities for growth and specialization. You can focus on a particular sport, such as soccer or basketball, or on a specific body part, such as the knee or shoulder. You can also choose to specialize in an area of sports medicine, such as orthopedics or emergency care.

No matter which path you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and treatments in your field. Read medical journals and attend conferences and workshops to learn about new techniques and technologies. Network with other physicians and athletes to share ideas and experiences.

Related: How to Write a Sports Medicine Physician Resume

Advancement Prospects

Sports medicine physicians can advance their careers by becoming more involved in research. They may also move into management or administrative positions, such as heading up a sports medicine department or program. Some sports medicine physicians may also become involved in sports medicine policy, working with government agencies or private organizations to develop policies and regulations related to sports medicine.

Similar Jobs


What Does an Environmental Lawyer Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does a Target Grocery Team Member Do?