Sports medicine is a field of medicine dedicated to the treatment of sports and exercise related injuries and diseases. Sports medicine specialists are experts in how to treat many different musculoskeletal illnesses as well as different fitness and nutrition routines to maximize performance.
Sports medicine and orthopedic medicine are two closely related fields. An orthopedic specialist treats many of the same issues that a sports medicine specialist does. However, an orthopedic specialist may recommend surgery to repair injuries of the knee, wrist, elbow, shoulder, or hip. A sports medicine specialist, on the other hand, focuses solely on injuries that occur in athletes and often recommends non-surgical treatments.
Athletes often have to deal with numerous knee, foot and ankle, elbow, hand and wrist, shoulder, and head injuries throughout their career. In high-impact sports and activities that put a repetitive strain on certain areas, injuries like sprains, strains, fractures, tears, and breaks of muscles, bones, tendons, and joints are not uncommon. Some of the most common ones include an ACL or MCL tear, Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, tennis elbow, shin splints, rotator cuff tears, and patellar tendonitis. Athletes also have a much higher risk of head injuries than the average person.
Often, a sports medicine expert will try to prescribe non-surgical options so that the athlete does not have to take extensive time off from their sport. They may treat the injury through manual manipulation, massage, cold or heat therapy, massage, or strength, and flexibility exercises. Rest is also a key component of healing, so the physical therapist may suggest taking a break from physical activity to give the area time to heal.
In some cases, such as a torn ACL, surgery will be necessary for a complete recovery. In this case, physical therapy from a sports medicine expert can be used after the surgery to speed up the recovery.
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