Are you interested in working with your favorite sports team or athlete as a medical professional? Fortunately for you, many medical fields hold specializations for sports, often known as ‘sports medicine.’ You can enter the field as a dietician or nutritionist, for example, and work into developing programs specifically for a given sport. Or, you can spend years training as a doctor or a surgeon who specializes in sports injuries and prevention of those mishaps.
The purpose behind any sports medicine field is to help athletes maintain peak physical and mental condition, to help those athletes avoid injury and to treat those injuries to help the athlete return to peak condition. Although sports medicine often was the domain of a team doctor, today many pro sports teams hire individuals to build a sports medicine team that works together to create the optimal conditions for success. This sports medicine team focuses on every aspect of the athlete to help that person become part of a dynamic and healthy team.
The following ten medical careers are just a few that can enable you to work with a pro sports team. These careers are listed alphabetically to show readers that we do not favor one career over another. The links take you to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can learn more about the training involved in each field, the general employment outlook and related occupations. You also can learn about salary ranges, but you might add a few more dollars for specialization within the sports arena. The growth in the field is expected to be better than average through 2016.
- Athletic Trainer: This person is trained to help athletes avoid injury through strength training, preventative measures such as diet and nutrition and by advising athletes on the proper use of training equipment. Usually, trainers work under the supervision of a licensed physician in cooperation with other health care providers.
- Chiropractor: Also known professionally as doctors of chiropractic or chiropractic physicians, these professionals diagnose and treat problems with an individual’s musculoskeletal system and also treat the effects of those problems on the nervous system and on overall general health. Some chiropractors specialize in sports injuries, including nutrition and diagnostic imaging.
- Fitness Worker: Fitness workers, also known as ‘coaches’ on many teams, are unlike individual trainers as the former is focused on leading, instructing and motivating individuals to work as groups to exercise for cardiovascular strength, strength training and stretching for flexibility. As a fitness coach, many professionals also specialize in a given sport to learn more about the types of movements and orientation involved in a team’s physical fitness. Fitness workers also need to learn how to motivate individuals to work as a team.
- Massage Therapist: What athletic team can not use the expertise of a trained massage therapist? A professional massage therapist can reduce pain, decompress tired and overworked muscles, reduce stress, rehabilitate sports injuries and promote general good health. A good massage of soft tissue muscles also can reduce a body’s toxicity level by helping to remove waste products from muscles.
- Physical Therapist: A physical therapist provides services that help people to develop, restore and maintain movement and function. Although a physical therapist can work with people of all ages, many athletes appreciate a physical therapist’s knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, therapeutic techniques and procedures.
- Podiatrist: A podiatrist, or foot doctor, is a vital part of any sports medical team, as this doctor specializes in the medical care of the foot, ankle and lower leg. Of special interest is injuries common to athletic activities. In many cases, the podiatrist is a surgeon who carries out restorative work and prescribes programs for postoperative rehabilitation.
- Psychologist: The human mind is powerful, as it can affect how the physical body reacts to situations. Any athletic team that suffers one person who cannot ‘get with the program’ understands how that one person can destroy any team effort. Psychologists who work in the sports field work with individuals as well as with entire teams to help overcome barriers to working as a team and to motivate that team for success.
- Recreational Therapist: These therapists work alongside physical therapists, doctors and other professionals to provide individuals with activities and with relaxation methods during recuperation from injury. Knowledge of psychology along with medical and acute observational skills can make this person invaluable to any sports team. These professionals can help team members relax, concentrate and use their physiques to the best of that athlete’s abilities.
- Respiratory Therapists: Just as many sports doctors now realize the importance of an athlete’s cardio and lung capacity, so sports teams now are realizing the importance of a respiratory therapist. These professionals evaluate, treat and care for patients who have breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. For instance, respiratory therapists test a patient’s breathing capacity and determine the concentration of oxygen and other gases in a patient’s blood. They also measure a patient’s pH, which indicates the acidity or alkalinity of the blood. All these tools can be used to refine an athlete’s abilities during the game.
- Sports Doctor: A sports medicine doctor is a medical doctor who specializes in prevention and treatment of injuries associated with athletic activities. The focus is on injuries to the joints, muscles and bones, but a new interest is in cardiac and lung capacities with a special interest in athletic internal medicine.