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Sports Medicine Professions: Overview of Career Education Programs

Sports medicine professionals prevent, diagnose and treat sports- or exercise-related injuries. They may include athletic trainers, fitness instructors, physical therapists and medical doctors. Read on to learn about the educational requirements needed to advance in the field of sports medicine.

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Sports Medicine Professionals - Overview

Sports medicine has many specialization areas, from the athletic trainer who interacts with the athletes on a daily basis to the fully trained medical doctor who specializes in orthopedic surgery or cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation. An athletic trainer or fitness instructor may coach athletes on the correct techniques to perform exercises to avoid sports-related injuries. Areas and subdisciplines one might pursue for a career in sports medicine also include:

  • Exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Physical therapy
  • Sport dietetics/nutrition
  • Massage therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Sports medicine research

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

Careers in this field also have potential for strong salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median salaries for athletic trainers were $42,090 in 2012. During that time, physical therapists earned a median of $79,860 per year, while physical therapist assistants made a median annual wage of $52,160, respectively.

Educational Requirements for Sports Medical Professionals

Many universities offer degrees and courses in sports medicine. One could earn an associate or bachelor's degree to be a personal trainer, athletic trainer or exercise instructor. After earning a degree from an accredited university and, in some cases, earning certification, one may work in fitness centers, gymnasiums or school and university settings.

Students pursuing master's degrees in physical therapy may choose a sports medicine specialization. Specialization covers supervised clinical practice, hands-on practice on patients and lab instruction. Students interested in research in sports medicine may wish to pursue Ph.D. To focus on treating sports related injuries, a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) may do a specialized residency in sports medicine after completing an accredited medical school program and passing a national licensure examination.

Coursework

Coursework in a sports medicine degree program varies by degree level and specialization. The courses in an athletic training program might include anatomy, sports nutrition, conditioning and biomechanics. A bachelor's degree program in sports medicine and fitness technology may include courses in athletic injury prevention, exercise leadership, applied kinesiology, substance abuse and strength training. Students in a master's degree program in exercise physiology might take courses in electrocardiography, clinical exercise physiology lab techniques, statistical interpretation and cardiac rehabilitation. Courses within a Ph.D. program in rehabilitation science might include exercise physiology, eating disorders in athletes, rehabilitation biomechanics and disability epidemiology.

Certification

Certification requirements depend on the professional field. Sports medicine physicians and surgeons can join organizations such as the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM). These organizations provide a forum for medical professional in sports medicine to interact and also advance the field by education and research. These organizations also provide fellowships and certification. Organizations such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) certify personal trainers.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics