Sports medicine specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating injuries related to participating in sports and/or exercise, specifically the rotation or deformation of joints or muscles caused by engaging in such physical activities. The sports medicine “team” includes specialty physicians and surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists, coaches, other personnel, as well as the athlete himself/herself. Because of the competitive nature of sports, a primary focus of sports medicine is the rapid recovery of patients, which drives many innovations in the field.
Sports medicine has always been difficult to define because it is not a single specialty, but an area that involves health care professionals, researchers and educators from a wide variety of disciplines. Its function is not only curative and rehabilitative, but especially preventive.
Despite this wide scope, there has been a tendency for many to assume that sport-related problems are by default musculoskeletal and that sports medicine is an orthopaedic specialty. There is much more to sports medicine than just musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment. Illness or injury in sport can be caused by many factors from environmental to physiological and psychological. Consequently, sports medicine can encompass an array of specialties, including cardiology, pulmonology, rehabilitation medicine, orthopaedic surgery, nutrition, dentistry, opthamology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and traumatology. For example, heat, cold or altitude during training and competition can alter performance or may even be life threatening. The female athlete triad of disordered eating, menstrual disturbances, and bone density problems, and the problems of pregnant or aging athletes demand knowledge from many diverse fields. In addition, the management of endocrinological diseases and other such problems in the athlete demands both medical expertise and sport-specific knowledge.