Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on physical fitness and the treatment and prevention of injuries related to sports and exercise. The goal is to help people engage in exercise safely and effectively in order to achieve their training goals.
You may be surprised to learn that sports medicine also includes helping athletes maximize their performance, cope with chronic illnesses like diabetes, and learn about nutrition and healthier lifestyles. Sports medicine focuses on maximizing the benefits of non-surgical treatments, which can help patients recover faster.
A sports medicine specialist has completed training in both the treatment and prevention of illness or injury. These specialists practice in non-surgical treatment methods, however, are well connected with orthopedic surgeons if all other non-surgical opportunities have failed.
In addition to implementing alternative methods to avoid requiring surgery, a specialist will be able to quickly diagnose and treat injuries and other physical conditions. He or she can make decisions quickly and accurately regarding the course of treatment as their advice often directly impacts a patient’s life and body functioning properly.
Physical therapists help people rehabilitate and recover from injuries, as well as improve athletic performance with a tailored approach. Personal trainers develop rehabilitation exercises to regain strength and conditioning programs to prevent future injury. Dietitians can provide dietary advice to help patients improve their physical functioning.
A specialist is well-trained and intensely interested in learning about the physiology of the human body, especially as it relates to athletes and sports. An intellectual curiosity about how the body moves and functions will motivate your specialist to learn about the latest methods, nutrition, and equipment to help patients recover from injury or physical impediments to athletic or fitness performance.
Athletes test their bodies every day in ways most of us have a hard time imagining. From an Iron Man to the Tour De France, from personal trainers to athletes of every variety, all spend an impressive number of hours each day training.
This intense training can take a toll on the body making injuries basically inevitable. This is where a sports medicine specialist comes as a benefit to those who are putting in the hours.
While sports medicine isn’t solely for athletes (more on that later), those who are training or are regularly active can utilize a specialist such as a physical therapist to prevent future injuries and improve athletic performance. The benefits of this practice for athletes include:
Sports medicine is not just for athletes. From weekend warriors to avid athletes, a specialist is uniquely positioned to be involved across the entire age spectrum and is able to recognize that health and fitness are dependent on a certain degree of physical activity and regular exercise throughout one’s life.
Even when those who are ‘weekend warriors’ experience an injury, treatment is the same as a high-level athlete. A specialist will provide expert advice in preventing future injuries as well as develop a customized treatment plan specific to the individual to restore full function.
As soon as possible after an injury, such as the knee or an ankle sprain, first relieve pain and swelling, and promote healing and flexibility with the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
Rest. Rest and protect the injured area. Avoid any activity that may be causing you pain or soreness.
Ice. The cold will reduce any pain or swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10-20 minutes 3 or 4 times a day. After 48-72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the injured area. Do not place ice or heat directly onto the skin – always be sure to wrap the ice or heat pack in a towel.
Compress. Wrap the injured area in an elastic compression bandage. Be sure it is not too tight because this can cause more swelling. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness in the affected area, or swelling in the area below the bandage. If you think you need to compress for more than 48-72 hours, see a specialist as this may indicate a more serious problem.
Elevate. Any time you are sitting or laying down, be sure to elevate and ice the injured area. Try to keep the area above the level of your heart to minimize swelling.
If you have an injury that isn’t improving and is interfering with your daily activities, it’s time to seek out medical attention. Signs of a major injury include severe pain, swelling, numbness, and an inability to put weight on the injured area.
A sports medicine physician should come to your consultation ready to learn about you, your injury or condition, and to form a plan of action that ensures positive results. First, he or she will conduct a physical examination and ask several questions regarding the nature of your injury.
Further questions may aim to identify whether your injury is from overuse, whether or not it requires surgery, among other details. Expect your patient-physician relationship to develop as the gathering of information is needed to help your current injury and prevent further injury down the road. For this reason, it’s important you feel completely comfortable with your specialist.
He or she will need to know your level of activity and exercise practices, of course, but they should also be informed of any lifestyle changes, medications, and any previously existing conditions. During your initial consultation, patients should communicate the following to their sports medicine specialist:
Be prepared to talk about your level of activity or fitness routine with your physician. To ensure he or she can get the complete picture, thoroughly describe your practices, how you train, and any irregularities in your health during athletic activities. They will take a look at the frequency in which you practice or train and how that may have contributed to your injury.
Also, be ready to talk about how and when you were injured and be honest about the level of pain you are experiencing. The level of pain you are experiencing generally shows the intensity and type of action needed, and solutions of relief will vary.
After evaluating your situation, further tests may be necessary to generate a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is reached, your sports medicine specialist will establish a treatment plan that will either include surgery, minimally invasive options, or various forms of therapy.
Physical therapy is a hands-on therapy method your doctor may recommend, and it includes specific stretches and exercises tailored to your unique body and condition rather than surgery. When dealing with an injury, most of us choose to simply stop moving in the direction in which it hurts. However, this is actually the worst thing you can do for your injury! Movement is crucial to rebuilding strength and movement.
Once your initial consultation is coming to an end, your physician will either schedule a follow-up appointment or inform you of the next steps of the process. While surgery can be a necessary treatment, other treatment options may be recommended or available based on your injury.
Injuries are, unfortunately, common. Poor training methods, inadequate warm-up, and lack of conditioning are a few of the most common causes of injuries. Fatigue and overuse are also significant contributors to an injury, not excluding the psychosocial aspects and dehydration that cause athletes to be prone to injuries.
Coping with sports injuries often requires physical rehabilitation. Physical therapy helps people rebuild strength and movement in parts of their body after an injury. It can also help someone manage pain and prevent permanent damage as well as reoccurring problems.
Physical therapists are trained to help patients recover following an injury. As part of physical therapy, they can teach exercises, stretches, and techniques using specialized equipment to address the problem.
As a specialist in sports medicine, the physical therapists at Desert Edge Physical Therapy and their team help you to return to a functional and healthy condition. If you are experiencing extensive pain or other complications from an exercise-induced injury, Desert Edge Physical Therapy is prepared to find the best method to alleviate your discomfort and begin your recovery.