Sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedics that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries suffered during athletic activity. The goal of treatment is to heal and rehabilitate injuries so patients can quickly return to their athletic activities. Participating in sports places wear-and-tear on the body, and can lead to orthopedic injuries. Athletes are susceptible to injuries that include stress fractures and chronic pain, as well as tearing or stretching of internal structures. Treatment for these conditions can involve surgery, orthotics, physical therapy and rest.
Specialized Care in Sports Medicine
Many physicians work together to help a patient regain maximum use of an injured limb or joint. A sports injury is typically treated by a physician, orthopaedic surgeon, rehabilitation specialist, athletic trainer and physical therapist, all of whom have specialized training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sports injuries. Common injuries treated in sports medicine include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
- Compartment syndrome
- Heat exhaustion
- Muscle contusions (bruises)
- Muscle cramps
- Shin splints
- Sprains and strains
- Stress fractures
- Torn tendons and ligaments
Sports injuries are often repairable with arthroscopy, which is a minimally invasive procedure that allows doctors to diagnose and sometimes treat joint injuries and disease through small incisions in the skin.
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Prevention of Injuries in Sports Medicine
In order to prevent sports injuries, it is important for athletes to take care of themselves before, during and after physical activity; this helps to ensure long-term athletic health. Some of the most effective injury prevention tips include the following:
- Staying hydrated
- Taking time to rest
- Not working out on an empty stomach
- Warming up before exercising
- Increasing activity levels only gradually
Seeking proper medical care at the first sign of a sports injury is imperative because continued activity can lead to even more damage.