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Should I see a sports medicine specialist?

Find out if a sports medicine specialist is a smart choice for your active lifestyle.

The wind in your hair, the ball in your hand, the cool water against your skin — it could be any of these thrills that bring you to the trail, court, or pool, every day. 

If you’re an active adult who lives for your favorite sport, you’re probably no stranger to the occasional ache or pain after a long run or challenging tennis match. After all, no pain no gain, right?

But beyond the occasional sprained ankle or muscle strain, if you suffer from a chronic injury or pain related to your favorite activity, you may want to consider visiting a sports medicine specialist. 

A sports medicine specialist can do more than offer specialized diagnosis and treatment for your sports-related injury. They can set you up with an injury prevention plan, nutritional guidance, and exercises that can help you avoid injury and perform at your best.

From enhanced performance to specialized injury treatment, find out if a sports medicine specialist is a smart choice for your active lifestyle.

What is a sports medicine specialist?

A sports medicine specialist has focused medical education and training in sports participation and physical activity. 

They focus on helping you improve your athletic performance, recover from injury, and prevent future injuries so you can stay active for years to come.

A sports medicine specialist should understand your goals for an active lifestyle. The goal of a sports medicine specialist is to help you stay active — specifically after you’ve been benched by injury.

A sports medicine specialist can be a physician, surgeon or another type of specialist, like a nutritionist or physical therapist.

Should I see my doctor or a sports medicine specialist for my sports injury?

If you suffer from a minor sports injury like a joint sprain, muscle strain, concussion or even a fracture, you’ll typically want to see your family doctor for an initial evaluation. 

But any of the following more severe or recurring issues could nudge your doctor to refer you to a sports medicine specialist:

  • Complicated injury related to overuse or training.
  • A chronic condition related to your sport, like tendonitis. 
  • Need for surgery due to sports-related injury or condition.
  • If your injury doesn’t improve within two weeks and your doctor believes you need an MRI to further evaluate the injury.

What types of injuries or conditions do sports medicine specialists treat?

Examples of injuries that sports medicine specialists specialize in treating include the following:

  • Acute injuries like ankle sprains, muscle strains, knee and shoulder injuries, and fractures.
  • Overuse injuries like rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis and stress fractures.
  • Medical and injection therapies for osteoarthritis.
  • Concussions and other head injuries.
  • Athletes with chronic or acute illnesses (like infectious mononucleosis, asthma or diabetes).

When should I see a sports medicine specialist?

Beyond the injuries listed above, sports medicine specialists also specialize in managing the following sports-related issues and topics:

  • Nutrition and supplements
  • Injury prevention
  • “Return to play” decision making
  • Safe strength training and conditioning exercises
  • Healthy lifestyle promotion

Performance enhancement is another big reason why you may want to see a sports medicine specialist. 

Whether you’re just starting a new activity or want to improve your performance, a sports medicine specialist can provide a comprehensive plan to help you maximize your athletic performance.

How do I find a sports medicine specialist?

A great way to find a sports medicine specialist is to ask for references from other athletes. 

Ask friends in your local running group or on your sports team or friends at your local gym or athletic club for their recommendations. 

Your primary care physician can also help refer you to a qualified sports medicine specialist.

Whether you’re a runner, ice skater or basketballer, staying active brings the occasional and inevitable accident. And if you’re not covered by accident insurance, you could end up shelling out a lot of cash to cover your injuries.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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