If you or a family member are suffering from a sports injury, your first thought is probably how quickly and easily treatment can be administered. Finding the best sports medicine physician to address the injury can seem like a daunting task. You are interested in getting the best doctor for the specific issue but aren’t sure where to start.
The title of “sports medicine doctor” can be a little confusing. There are basically two types of sports medicine physicians. There are orthopedic surgeons that have completed a fellowship in sports medicine and there are primary care physicians that have completed additional training in this area. One of the major differences between these two types of doctors is that one is trained as a surgeon and the other is not.
Beyond medical school, orthopedic surgeons complete a residency, typically lasting 5 years, in orthopedic surgery. After completing residency, some surgeons choose to do additional training in a fellowship program such as surgical sports medicine. This fellowship program lasts one year, focusing heavily on shoulder and knee injuries. There is also an emphasis on other body parts such as elbow, hip, ankle and hand. After completing this additional training, these orthopedic surgeons are specialized in surgical and non-surgical treatment.
Primary care sports medicine doctors also do a residency. However, most choose a residency such as family medicine, emergency medicine or internal medicine. This training typically lasts three years. Beyond residency, primary care sports medicine doctors will also do a fellowship. This training also lasts about 1-2 years but is not focused on surgical training.
Deciding whether to see a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon or a primary care sports medicine doctor is not as simple as whether or not you think surgery is necessary. Orthopedic surgeons can and do treat sports injuries without surgery quite often. It is important to remember that assessment is the first step in determining the best course of treatment. An orthopedic surgeon can determine whether or not surgery is the best approach to resolve the issue.
Primary care sports medicine doctors can assess and treat a sports injury, but often refer to an orthopedic surgeon when it is determined that surgery is the best option.
Whether you decide to see a fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon or a primary care sports medicine doctor, it is important to consider a few other factors. Be sure to check which physicians are covered by your insurance. It is also a good idea to research the specific doctor by looking at their experience and training on his or her website. You should be able to find out specifically if they have expertise with your specific injury.