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What is Sports Medicine?

Injuries during physical activity are a common occurrence – that’s why there is a range of sports medicine specialists focused on keeping athletes safe

What is Sports Medicine?

If your child is injured while exercising, participating in a sport or doing any type of physical activity, you may be advised to see a sports medicine health care provider for treatment.

About sports medicine specialists

“Sports medicine health care providers have special training to restore function to injured patients so they can get moving again as soon as possible,” says orthopedic surgeon Gabriel Lewullis, MD, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. Sports medicine health care providers are experts in preventing illness and injury in active people. They do work with professional athletes, but they also treat children and teens involved in sports and adults who exercise for personal fitness. Plus, they treat people who have physically demanding jobs, like construction workers.

Sports medicine is not a medical specialty in itself. Most sports medicine health care providers are certified in orthopedic surgery or family medicine. They then get additional training. Others specialize in treating injuries in children and teens, whose growing bodies can be quite different from those of adults. They are generally board certified in pediatrics or family medicine with additional training in sports medicine.

Other experts may work with a sports medicine specialist to provide care, including:

  • Concussion specialists. Credentialed ImPACT consultants measure the extent of brain injury and determine when it’s safe for you to return to normal activities.
  • Sports rehabilitation. They help people rehabilitate and recover from injuries.
  • Sports cardiologists. The sports cardiology team at the Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute diagnose and treat athletes who may have a heart condition.
  • Certified athletic trainers. These trainers provide rehab exercise routines to help patients regain strength. They also develop conditioning programs to prevent future injury.
  • Sports performance specialists. They develop personalized programs focused on improving speed, agility, strength and preventing injury to help athletes reach their highest potential.
  • Nutritionists. They may help with needed weight loss or weight gain. They can provide dietary advice to help people improve their physical functioning.
“If your child experiences a major injury during exercise or sports, seek care right away. Don’t wait to see a sports medicine specialist.” - Daniel Terpstra, DO

Reasons to see a sports medicine specialist

Your child may see a sports medicine health care provider for an injury such as:

  • Fracture/sprain
  • Knee or shoulder injury
  • Tendonitis
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Heat illness
  • Concussion
  • Eating disorder
  • Cartilage injury

“Sports medicine health care providers also can give advice on nutrition, supplements, exercise and injury prevention,” says orthopedic surgeon Daniel Terpstra, DO, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute.

When to call a sports medicine health care provider

“If your child experiences a major injury during exercise or sports, seek care right away,” Terpstra says. “Don’t wait to see a sports medicine specialist.” Signs of a major injury include severe pain, swelling, numbness and an inability to put any weight on the injured area. If none of these symptoms are present, have your child rest at home and call your child’s health care provider for guidance. You may want to ask for a referral to a sports medicine specialist.

Most sports injuries don’t need surgery. “Treatment for a sports injury can include taking pain relievers, putting ice on the injured area and keeping it immobilized with a cast or sling,” Lewullis says. In some cases, surgery may be needed to fix torn tissue or realign bones.

Sports Medicine

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