What is Sports Medicine?

Regular exercise and other forms of physical activity provide numerous health benefits. In addition to physical fitness, weight maintenance, and increased bone and muscle strength, an active lifestyle can boost mental awareness, mood and overall well-being. What’s more, by accelerating the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to tissues throughout the body, sports participation can help the cardiovascular system work more efficiently and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Improved heart and lung function can also provide the energy needed not only for participating in sports but also for tackling various daily tasks.

Of course, all types of physical activity—including sports—carry a risk of injury. But most experts agree that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks.  If an athlete should sustain an injury, a sports medicine physician can provide the specialized care necessary to help them recover and get back into the game.

Sports medicine is a medical specialty focused on preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries related to participation in sports, exercise, and other physical activities. These types of injuries typically affect the musculoskeletal system, a complex series of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons located throughout the body. Physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, dietitians, and sports psychologists all work within the realm of sports medicine, which is truly a multidisciplinary field.

What Is a Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician?

A primary care sports medicine physician is a medical doctor who has completed training in general medicine, then pursued and completed additional training known as a fellowship in the field of sports medicine. A sports medicine fellow is eligible to earn a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine (CAQSM) by passing a rigorous examination.

Designed to recognize excellence among physicians whose practice emphasizes expertise in the field of sports medicine, the CAQSM program was collaboratively developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM), the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPMR), and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). After passing the exam, the fellow must fulfill ongoing continuing education requirements to maintain their CAQSM.

A physician who has earned the CAQSM credential is qualified to diagnose and treat mild, moderate, and severe athletic injuries that do not require surgical intervention. If the physician believes that surgery is needed to address a complex injury, such as a displaced fracture or a full-thickness rotator cuff tear, the physician will refer the patient to an orthopedic surgeon (another type of sports medicine specialist).

The Goals of Primary Care Sports Medicine

Primary care sports medicine physicians focus their practice on helping patients recover quickly and safely from two main types of athletic injuries:

Acute Injuries

These injuries occur suddenly due to a fall, a direct blow, a collision with another player, a quick change of direction, or another specific event. Common examples include:

  • Strained muscles
  • Sprained ligaments
  • Broken bones
  • Dislocated joints
  • Concussions

Chronic Injuries

These injuries develop gradually through repetitive use, overtraining, or taking on too much physical activity too soon. Common examples include:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Swimmer’s shoulder (impingement syndrome)
  • Jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis)
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • Bursitis
  • Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Stress fractures
  • Osteoarthritis

Some sports medicine physicians are subspecialists who focus on treating a specific area of the body, such as the shoulder, spine, hand and wrist, hip, knee, or foot and ankle.

What Does a Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician Do?

Primary care sports medicine physicians provide comprehensive medical care for athletes of all levels. They can accurately diagnose a physical injury by evaluating the symptoms, taking a medical history, performing a physical examination, and reviewing the results of diagnostic testing, such as blood work, X-rays, and musculoskeletal ultrasound images. After confirming the diagnosis, the physician can then develop an individualized treatment plan—which may include prescribing medication and/or working with a physical therapist to create a customized physical therapy program. The aim is to promote full and proper injury healing and facilitate a quick and safe return to sport.

In addition to diagnosing and treating acute and chronic sports-related injuries, primary care sports medicine physicians can provide expert guidance on nutrition, performance enhancement, and injury prevention. This may include developing a targeted pre-participation regimen of stretches and exercises designed to enhance an athlete’s flexibility and strength.

Although primary care sports medicine physicians frequently treat active individuals, they can treat non-athletes as well. For instance, if you would like to begin a new exercise program or become more active in general, a primary care sports medicine physician can be an excellent resource. Working together, you can develop a safe and effective fitness routine while managing any underlying health conditions that you may have, such as asthma or diabetes. In sum, you don’t have to be a professional competitor—or even a serious athlete—to benefit from the skills and expertise of a primary care sports medicine physician.

Talk With an Expert

You can consult with an experienced primary care sports medicine physician at Florida Medical Clinic. Contact us at 813-979-6978 to request an appointment at our New Tampa office, which is conveniently located at 15285 Amberly Drive.

About W. Andrew Sprouse, MD

Dr. Sprouse is a primary care sports medicine physician who specializes in addressing sports-related musculoskeletal injuries using the latest non-surgical treatment options. Passionate about exercise as medicine, his goal is to help each patient live a healthy and active lifestyle. In his spare time, he enjoys active pursuits such as soccer, golf, and fly fishing.


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