Sports medicine is a relatively recent medical specialty. Until the 1980s, the team physician in a high-level sport program was often an orthopedic specialist with an interest in sport; there was no defined training or educational programs to support sport medical practices. The primary focus of the physician was reactive, as opposed to preventative, in nature. The diagnosis, treatment, and repair of injuries was the most important ongoing function in sport medicine.
The increasing sophistication with which athletes and their coaches approached training and competition was the impetus in the development of the sports medicine as a recognized discipline within the medical profession. Sports medicine education today embraces a wide range of sciences, each of which contributes to the healthy training, diagnostics, treatment, repair, and rehabilitation of athletes. A sports medicine practitioner will be a part of a coordinated treatment effort involving a number of allied experts.
Modern sports medicine is not directed simply to the treatment and repair of injuries; the ultimate goal with respect to an athletic injury is the promotion of healing, recovery, and a limitation-free, pain-free return to sport. Sports medicine education is directed toward all of these objectives.
Sports medicine is influenced by a number of forces, some of which are within the traditional realm of the physician, with others rooted in various applications of sport performance. Those forces include medicine, with particular emphasis on the orthopedic specialties, both surgical and non-surgical treatments, and physiatry, the rehabilitative and physical medicine specialty. Anther discrete medical specialty that is a part of sport medicine education is the subscript of orthopedics, joint reconstruction. Medical research, with which all sport medicine education must be closely allied, is an ongoing, dynamic field that is driven by the study of disciplines such as biomechanics and bone biology.
Other sports medicine application are podiatry, the medicine of the foot and its processes, and exercise science (kinesiology), the study of human movement. The effective treatment and management of sports injuries requires a solid grounding in the mechanics of the body.
A sports medicine expert may not physically direct a day-to-day course of athletic therapy; an understanding what the therapist can accomplish is fundamental to the prescription of treatments for the injury. However, how an athlete is coached is an important component to the understanding of the likely course of rehabilitation and recovery to be experienced by the athlete.
A large and important aspect of general nutrition, health promotion, and wellness is the counseling and direction of athletes concerning the use of dietary supplements, and the dangers of contaminated or otherwise illegal performance-enhancing substances.
Sports medicine education will embrace each of the sports science fields. No one specialist is likely to possess the skills and the training to act as the primary treatment professional in each component; many sports medical professionals act as coordinators of care programs that are directed to each aspect of the science. As with all sports science disciplines, the professional will have sufficient knowledge to know when to engage the input of another specialist.
Sports medicine education places a primary emphasis on the need to provide athletes with a physical assessment prior to their participation in a sport. This assessment will often be provided in conjunction with coaches or athletic therapists, if there are concerns regarding a preexisting injury or condition, or when the medical personnel are seeking to identify a congenital condition such as heart arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). In many sports, the sports medicine professional will be engaged to provide
Given the demands of sports competition on the body, a significant component of sports medicine education will invariably be devoted to the diagnosis and testing of athletes in relation to injury. These processes often focus on the mechanics of movement, engaging the combined principles of both exercise science and medicine.
Orthopedic medicine, the science of the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, is a central aspect of sports medicine. Developments concerning arthroscopic surgical techniques, increasingly sophisticated micro-surgery techniques that are a less invasive repair of joints such as the knee or elbow, are a rapidly developing specialty within orthopedic medicine. Since the year 2000, advances in the preservation of articular cartilage in the joints have included Cartrell cartilage implants and other procedures to rebuild cartilage and corresponding joint function.
Physiatry, the rehabilitative and physical medicine specialty is an important aspect of sport medicine education. Related to all rehabilitative efforts is the direction of all efforts that support the recovery of the athlete beyond the scope of traditional medical training—the creation of appropriate orthotics, and the utilization of alternative treatments such as physiotherapy and massage.