Anybody who participates in a sport is likely to eventually experience an injury that requires the assistance of a sports injury doctor. Sports injuries can be caused by accidents, improper gear, being out of shape, poor training, or failure to warm up.
A sports medicine doctor is one who specializes in treating athletes. The most common injuries seen in athletes include strains, sprains, dislocations, fractures, Achilles tendon injuries, knee injuries, swollen muscles, concussions, and shin splints.
In many cases, an athlete’s primary care physician can take care of the issue, especially if the injury is something simple or minor like a sprain or strain. But if the athlete has a chronic condition like tendonitis, needs surgery, or has a complicated condition, the primary care physician will often suggest a sports injury doctor.
Types of Sports Injury Doctors
A podiatrist treats foot and ankle injuries, and they therefore often work with runners and other athletes prone to such injuries.
Physical therapists help athletes recover from injuries. In many cases, they work with patients whose injuries have impaired their strength and/or mobility. Many physical therapists have been trained in medicine and orthopedics.
An orthopedist treats problems involving the musculoskeletal system like bone or joint injuries. Many of them further specialize in areas like joint replacement, back surgery, or ACL repairs.
Chiropractors manipulate the spine in order to relieve pressure on various nerves. They also often work with massage therapists to treat a variety of conditions. Since chiropractic does not involve surgery or prescription medicine, it tends to be a first resort for many athletes.
At our center, we provide treatments in all of these areas with our comprehensive care team.
What is orthopedics?
Orthopedics is the study and treatment of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Originally, orthopedists exclusively treated children with deformed spines or limbs. In fact, the word “orthopedic” is derived from the Greek words for “straight” and “child.” Modern orthopedic doctors work with patients of all ages, and they treat such conditions as arthritis, chronic pain, rheumatic diseases, and various injuries.
Orthopedic doctors are divided into two broad categories: non-surgical and surgical. Non-surgical or medical orthopedists use a variety of methods to treat conditions that don’t require surgery. Most sports injuries fall into that category. A medical orthopedist can treat injuries like sprains or fractures, and they can treat conditions like bursitis that are caused by repetitive movements. The treatments they recommend will depend on the injury, but they typically include medication, physical therapy, and changes in the patient’s lifestyle and/or diet.
Orthopedic surgeons perform a variety of surgical procedures including arthroscopy and traditional open surgery. They operate to correct serious problems with bones, joints and connective tissues. Orthopedic doctors of either type can be generalists, or they can be specialists. Sports medicine is often considered a specialty within orthopedics.
In addition to treating injuries, orthopedists can help athletes prevent injuries. For example, an orthopedist can analyze a runner’s gait and then advise them about potential problems. During a gait analysis, the athlete will walk or run on a treadmill, and the orthopedist will videotape them. The doctor will then analyze the tape. They will often pay particular attention to the athlete’s feet and ankles. If the orthopedist does find an abnormality, they might recommend orthotics, physical therapy, or simply different athletic shoes.
How can sports injuries be treated?
In many cases, the doctor will start by recommending the RICE method of self-care. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It’s a form of First Aid intended to speed healing and reduce pain and swelling. RICE should typically be used for 48 hours after the injury has occurred. Heating pads can be used to soothe pain caused by minor injuries.
If RICE doesn’t relieve the pain, the athlete can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. All three can relive pain, and the first two also reduce swelling. If the pain is severe, the doctor may prescribe oral or injectable medications to relax muscles and reduce pain.
Immobilization is a common treatment for a sports injury, and it prevents further damage. Leg immobilizers, slings, splints and casts are all used to keep the injured part from bearing weight or moving.
Surgery might be required for the more severe sports injuries, like broken bones or torn ligaments. Most sports injuries don’t require surgery. Many orthopedic surgeons prefer arthroscopy or keyhole surgery over open surgery. In arthroscopy, the orthopedic surgeon uses a miniature camera to guide them, as opposed to making a large incision. Many orthopedists especially like using arthroscopy for knee operations.
After the injury has healed, the athlete will often need physical therapy of some sort to restore the normal functioning of the damaged part. Physical therapy will gradually help restore flexibility, strength and full range of motion to the injured part. The therapy will typically involve stretching and other exercises.
When should an athlete go to a doctor?
“Playing through” an injury is never a good idea, for it could make the injury worse. The athlete should always stop and rest after hurting themselves. Sometimes rest and/or first aid is all that is needed, and sometimes the athlete needs to go to a doctor.
An athlete should always go to the doctor if any of the following are true:
- The joint feels unstable or abnormal or looks misshapen
- The athlete can’t put any weight on the injured area or otherwise use it
- The injury causes severe swelling, pain or numbness
- An old injury swells or causes pain
- The athlete has a head injury
If you feel that you could benefit from a visit to a sports injury doctor, contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you. We can schedule an appointment so you can meet with one of our experienced doctors for a consultation where we learn more about your medical history and your symptoms. Feel free to ask us any questions you might have about our treatment options or diagnostic process.