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What Is a Professional Sports Doctor?

An individual with a sports medicine background and education has many career options to choose from, including being a sports physician. As a professional sports doctor, your key responsibility will be taking care of your team's athletes in a number of ways. Keep reading to learn more about the job duties, necessary education, and salary information for this profession.

Duties and Responsibilities

Sports doctors work with athletes in high school, college, or professional sports in a number of different ways. As a sports doctor, you are responsible for caring for athletes by preventing and treating injuries that happen during training or competition. You work with coaches and trainers to provide advice and guidance on preventative measures. Once an athlete has been injured, you discuss diagnosis and treatment with the athlete, her or his family (when applicable), and the team's management staff. You work with a team or individual athletes to educate them on nutrition. Your duties also include keeping track of all medical records, submitting tests for laboratory use, referring an injured athlete for further treatment, directing rehabilitation of an injured athlete, conducting research on treatments, and treating injuries of the musculoskeletal system. Maintaining and managing equipment and medications for athlete use are also part of your responsibilities.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, EMT/Paramedic, Recreational Therapist
Key Skills Compassion, leadership, problem-solving, and organizational skills
Work Environment Schools of all types, sports teams, clinic or hospital settings
Required Coursework Classes in family practice, psychiatry, and obstetrics are required


With an educational background in sports medicine, you have a number of career options to choose from in the sports world. However, all sports doctors are licensed physicians.

To become a physician, you go to medical school and study to be a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), education requirements for doctors include having a bachelor's degree, completing four years of medical school, and completing up to eight years of residency. Many D.O.s also complete an internship. You may complete a residency program in family medicine, internal medicine, or surgery, depending on whether you wish to focus on primary care sports medicine or surgical procedures.

Licensing and Certification

All U.S. states require you to be licensed to practice medicine, according to the BLS. To become licensed, D.O.s must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Licensing Exam (COMLEX), while M.D.s must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) is one group that provides certification in sports medicine. Physicians seeking this certification need to have ethical and moral competency, possess a valid ABIM certification in a specialty or internal medicine, and complete graduate medical training. Other ABIM requirements include having a valid license to practice medicine and passing the certification exam for sports medicine. Other professional bodies that certify physicians in a sports subspecialty include the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and the American Board of Family Medicine. Each has its own requirements.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for sports physicians in the United States was $229,226 as of 2019. This figure may include sports doctors who already have years of experience. The BLS indicated in May 2018 that the median annual wage for family and general practitioners was $211,780. The BLS expected employment for doctors and surgeons to grow by 13% from 2016-2026.