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Primary Care Sports Medicine


Primary care sports medicine is a career for physicians who choose to focus their practices on health care for the physically active individual. Primary care sports medicine focuses on treating the “whole” patient to prevent injury, improve performance and enhance overall health.

The field of sports medicine has evolved beyond treatment of common athletic injuries to comprehensive health care for all active patients. Sports medicine patients include both professional athletes and amateurs who want to achieve their personal best.

The American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM) divides the field of sports medicine into two general areas: Surgical (surgical repair of damaged tendons, ligaments and joints) and primary care, which encompasses all non-surgical care. Many primary care sports medicine physicians work closely with and refer patients to surgeons.

Primary care sports medicine involves:

  • Comprehensive health care for the active patient, including diagnosis and treatment of sports or activity -related and unrelated injuries and illnesses.
  • Use of manual techniques to prevent and treat muscular and skeletal conditions common in athletes.
  • Special knowledge of the principles of athletic conditioning.
  • Focus on injury prevention and rehabilitation, including injuries common to specific sports.
  • Incorporating nutritional guidance to build strength and endurance in support of athletic performance.

Anyone who is physically active can benefit from working with a primary care sports medicine specialist. This field is expected to grow as Americans become more aware of the benefits of sports medicine in preventing injury and remaining physically active throughout life.

Working Conditions

As a primary care sports medicine physician, you may work exclusively with a particular athletic team, a university sports program, or a fitness club. Or, you may work in a private or group practice.

In addition to treating patients, primary care sports medicine physicians often consult with athletic trainers, coaches and athletic directors on injury prevention and performance enhancement.

This field is expanding beyond the traditional realm of professional and college athletics. More and more Americans are seeking primary care sports medicine physicians to improve health, maintain strength and endurance, and sustain an active lifestyle.

Salary Range & Outlook

A primary care sports medicine physician can expect to earn $100,000 to 200,000. Salaries depend on where the physician is employed.

Career opportunities in primary care sports medicine are likely to grow as individuals become more physically active, interest in athletics expands and organizations invest in better care for their athletes.

Academic Requirements

While sports medicine is a recognized subspecialty, physicians cannot obtain primary board certification in primary care sports medicine. You must first complete three years of residency training in a recognized specialty, such as family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, or pediatrics

Once you have completed your residency, you can pursue a fellowship in sports medicine and take an exam to receive a Certification of Added Qualification (CAQ) in sports medicine. A physician who successfully completes the CAQ is considered to be board certified in sports medicine. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.

Your sports medicine training will focus on exercise physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, cardiology and treatment of traumatic injury. Primary care sports medicine emphasizes the prevention of injury through proper training and technique. When injuries occur, the primary care sports medicine physician will prescribe prompt, intensive and extended rehabilitation to ensure that the patient not only recovers full function but strengthens the weakened body parts to avoid re-injury.