Sports Medicine Doctor: Job Duties, Career Outlook and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for sports medicine doctors. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Kinesiology & Sport Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Sports Medicine Doctor?

A sports medicine doctor helps professional and amateur athletes stay healthy or recover from injury. Just like a general doctor, a sports medicine doctor will diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. They likely will spend time getting familiar with an athlete's past injuries to better understand current injuries. They will develop treatment and therapy plans to help athletes recover as quickly and safely as possible. The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a sports medicine doctor.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
Training Required 2- to 7-year residency followed by 1- to 2-year fellowship in sports medicine
Key Responsibilities Examine patients and diagnose sports-related injuries or conditions; prescribe medication and treatment to heal and restore normal function; monitor patient recovery and adjust treatment according to patient response
Licensure and/or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in sports medicine is available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% (for all physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2019) $182,038 (for sports medicine physicians)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Does a Sports Medicine Doctor Do?

As a sports medicine doctor, you will diagnose and treat athletes and other active people suffering from a sports-related injury or illness. You will have the opportunity to work with medical professionals such as surgeons, physical therapists, physiologists, nutritionists and coaches to help patients in their recovery. You may also be asked to come up with ways of preventing injury and promoting health for individuals actively involved in sports and exercise.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Sports Medicine Doctor?

After obtaining a bachelor's degree with a strong pre-medical curriculum, you must attend an accredited medical school to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). These similar programs take four years to complete and include coursework in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, biochemistry and physiology, as well as the legal aspects of medicine, among other topics.

After receiving your degree, you must perform a residency lasting 2-7 years in a specialty such as family medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine, emergency medicine or pediatrics. As part of your residency, look to become involved in research projects and select rotations geared toward sports medicine. During your residency you can study urgent care, pharmacology, musculoskeletal medicine and endocrinology.

Following residency, you can complete a sports medicine fellowship; this usually takes 1-2 years to complete. Besides lectures, you may be involved in doing clinical work with patients trying to recover from musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains, stress fractures or injuries from overuse. You may also assist athletes with strength conditioning or help them deal with non-musculoskeletal injuries, like brain trauma, chronic illness or issues related to nutrition and performance.

How Do I Become a Licensed Physician?

To become licensed, you must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination for medical doctors or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam for osteopathic doctors. You are also required to take the national board certification exam for your specialty, as well as become licensed in the state where you intend to practice. If you earn your specialty board certification in an area like internal medicine, family medicine, orthopaedic surgery or physical medicine, you can then take the exam certifying you as a doctor in sports medicine.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for all physicians and surgeons is predicted to grow by 7% from 2018-2028, which is faster than average ( Doctors tend to work irregular and long hours, sometimes overnight, and they may often be on call. reported an annual salary range of about $59,000 to $241,000, as of November 2019, for sports medicine doctors in the 25%-75% percentile range.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

For individuals interested in working with athletes, they may also consider pursuing a career in physical therapy which will allow them to help athletes recover from injury and surgery. They may also be interested in becoming a chiropractor which involves helping individuals recover from various injuries and spinal misalignments. There are a number of other medical related careers, including jobs as other types of doctors or as nurses.

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