Sports Medicine Surgeon: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a sports medicine surgeon. Learn about education, training, licensure requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Kinesiology & Sport Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Sports Medicine Surgeon?

Sports medicine surgeons, more commonly known as orthopaedic surgeons, provide diagnosis and treatment for musculoskeletal injuries and disorders that are caused by or affect athletic performance. In addition to performing surgical procedures, these professionals also offer nonsurgical treatments, provide athletes with nonsurgical rehabilitation strategies and counsel them on lifestyle changes that can support recovery and/or help them manage a particular condition. They commonly work in hospitals, academic medical centers and sports-focused health clinics.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a sports medicine surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Training Required 5-year surgery residency followed by 1- to 2-year sports medicine fellowship
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Examine, assess and diagnose athletic injuries; surgically repair or restore damage to bones, ligaments and musculoskeletal structures caused by athletic-related injuries or accidents
Job Growth (2018-2028) 17%for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2018) $482,483 for orthopaedic surgeons**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

What Education Do I Need to be a Sports Medicine Surgeon?

Sports medicine surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal issues common to athletes. Your pursuit of a career in this field should begin with a 4-year bachelor's degree program at an accredited university. While no particular major is necessary, your coursework must satisfy medical school prerequisites, including physics, general and organic chemistry, biology and some mathematics. Medical programs are highly selective, so you should focus on building a strong academic and extracurricular record.

The admissions process to medical school is extensive. You'll be required to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Frequently, medical schools also require applicants to interview with an admissions officer.

Most medical programs grant the 4-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Your medical school curriculum will include a variety of subjects, such as pathology, pharmacology, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. You'll also complete clinical rotations and gain practice treating patients in a variety of medical specialties, such as pediatrics, psychiatry, internal medicine and surgery.

As an alternative to the M.D., several programs offer the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). A D.O. program also lasts four years and can prepare you for the same type of work as an M.D. program; however, D.O. programs place more emphasis on holistic medicine and the musculoskeletal system.

When Can I Practice?

Every U.S. state and territory requires that medical practitioners be licensed before taking up practice. Licensure as a physician entails passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) and adhering to the regulatory practices of the individual state you intend to practice in.

Before you can practice as a sports medicine surgeon, you'll need to pursue an orthopaedic surgery residency to receive specialized training. You can expect your residency to last five years. During your first year, you'll receive training in general surgery, and your final four years will focus on orthopaedic surgery. You'll rotate through different subspecialties, such as sports medicine, joint replacement, orthopaedic trauma and orthopaedic oncology. You'll also receive didactic training through conferences or seminars.

Finally, after completing your residency, you'll need to complete a surgical sports medicine fellowship. Fellowships last 1-2 years. You'll gain experience performing surgeries to address sports-related conditions and attend lectures and conferences. You may also be required to conduct research.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

According to, orthopaedic surgeons made a median annual wage of $482,483 as of 2019. The top ten percent earned $624,222 or more, while the bottom ten percent earned $379,339 or less. Specific salary data was not available for orthopaedic surgeons who specialized in sports medicine surgery.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to dedicate your career to helping athletes recover from injuries and manage musculoskeletal conditions, you could also consider a career as a physical therapist. Rather than a medical degree, this job requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Alternatively, you could choose a post-medical school residency that prepares you to work as a general surgeon or as a specialist in a different area of the field, such as pediatric surgery or neurological surgery.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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