Students interested in become a physician must first complete a bachelor’s degree with a pre-med concentration that provides them with a solid foundation in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Gaining admission into medical school can be competitive, so students must complete the aforementioned courses and obtain excellent grades to be considered a viable applicant to medical schools.
Beyond this coursework, students will also be required to perform well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to secure a spot in medical school. While those interested in sports medicine are usually sports aficionados themselves (and therefore may take part in organized sports), this is in no way a requirement for admission into medical school or sports medicine.
Most sports medicine doctors complete a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. These programs both involve four years of academic coursework in biology, biochemistry, anatomy, pathology, psychology, physiology, medical ethics and pharmacology. Following the completion of medical school, students are awarded their respective degree (M.D. or D.O). Next, these newly minted physicians must go on to complete a clinical residency, which provides them with several years of hands-on practice in a variety of clinical settings under the supervision of fully trained, attending physicians (see below).
Three-year clinical residencies in internal medicine, family medicine, or emergency medicine (or a four-year residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation) all offer suitable training for an aspiring sports medicine physician. Other, more surgically inclined students may instead opt for a five-year residency in orthopedic surgery. During residency, it may be possible to secure an elective rotation in sports medicine to gain early exposure.
All states require medical doctors to be licensed, so sports medicine doctors must check with their state’s licensing board for specific requirements.
In addition to a license, doctors may seek certification by a recognized professional organization. This certification will help make the doctor a better job candidate since it will show that he or she has met the organization’s professional requirements and is staying up-to-date in developments in this subspecialty through continuing education courses. Certification in sports medicine is offered by the following organizations:
American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS)
American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
Since sports medicine is a subspecialty, doctors must get a certification of added qualification (CAQ) in sports medicine. To prepare for this, doctors complete a two-year fellowship in sports medicine at a hospital, rehabilitation facility or university athletic department. These two years expose doctors to different types of athletic-related injuries and methods of diagnosing and treating them. Additionally, the fellowship provides experience with orthopedic surgeries, rehabilitative techniques, brain trauma, nutrition, and performance psychology. Orthopedic surgeons can also apply for fellowships in this field, but added qualification certification is not required.