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Athletes: What to Do When You Get Hurt

Sports medicine physicians can get you back on track

A person lying on a mat and wearing a knee brace

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, competitive athlete, regular recreational exerciser or simply an active individual, you know a nagging tendonitis or skin infection can halt you in your tracks.


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That’s where sports medicine physicians step in.

“If an injury or illness gets in the way of your performance or being active, we develop a plan to quickly and safely get you back on track,” says sports medicine physician Marie Schaefer, MD.

Instead of toughing it out, a sports medicine physician can get you back to an active lifestyle. Read on to find out how.

Physicians for active people and athletes

More than 90% of all sports injuries don’t require surgery. Medical sports medicine physicians work alongside orthopaedic sports medicine physicians and other specialists — in the office and on the sidelines, from high school to professional level teams — to diagnose and manage acute and chronic musculoskeletal problems such as:

  • Acute injuries: Sprains, strains, fractures of the knee, hand, finger, shoulder or back injuries.
  • Overuse injuries: Tendonitis or stress fractures.

Additionally, Dr. Schaefer says sports medicine physicians are trained to treat non-musculoskeletal aspects of sports medicine such as:

  • Concussion: They can provide a comprehensive evaluation and management of symptoms through a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Chronic or acute illnesses affecting athletes: Sports medicine physicians can help treat acute illnesses that can derail your training, such as mononucleosis, asthma, hypertension, and diabetes.

Medical sports medicine physicians can also guide patients in decisions regarding nutrition information (including supplements), ergogenic aids and performance issues. They can also recommend exercise prescriptions if you want to increase your fitness levels, prevent injury during a sport or fitness program or help with return-to-play decisions if you’re sick or injured.

Finally, Dr. Schaefer says your sports medicine physician can make recommendations on safe strength training and conditioning exercises, and ways you can embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Sports medicine physicians: Not just for competitive athletes

Dr. Schaefer says sports medicine physicians won’t just treat your symptoms. They’ll look into the cause of your symptoms, too.

“We look at why your injury or problem occurred and determine how best to treat it,” Dr. Schaefer says. “And we help prevent recurrences by addressing the condition or ailment that played a role in your injury in the first place.”

If you need further care, your sports medicine physician will guide you and expedite your referral to a surgeon, musculoskeletal radiologist, physical therapist, sports dietitian or sports psychologist.

Trained in two fields

Sports medicine physicians are first trained and board-certified in one of the following specialties:

  • Family medicine.
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation.
  • Pediatrics.
  • Internal medicine.
  • Emergency medicine.

They also complete one or two years’ training through a fellowship in sports medicine, a field dedicated to the comprehensive care of athletes and active individuals.

How do sports medicine physicians treat injuries?

“Sports medicine physicians treat the whole person,” Dr. Schaefer says, including providing education, tips on prevention and treating injuries as well as information on non-surgical treatment options and ongoing care. “They’re able to evaluate and manage multiple conditions in the same active person or athlete to provide a lifetime of care.”


Sports medicine physicians utilize additional tools to treat musculoskeletal issues including the following procedures:

So whether you’re a recreational athlete, a pro, or someone who wants to become active, a sports medicine physician can help you become — and stay —active in the activity or sport you love.


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