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How to Get Started on a Career in Sports Medicine

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How to Get Started on a Career in Sports Medicine

Sports medicine gives you the opportunity to mesh your love of sports with the wish to work in a health-related career.

There are many different degree levels and specialities, ranging from fitness trainers with two-year associate degrees, to physicians with years of medical school specializing in treating sports injuries. Employment opportunities in this profession are expected to expand by 21 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - one of the fastest rates of growth of any healthcare field.

What is sports medicine?

In the simplest terms, sports medicine is helping people improve athletic performance, recover from current injuries and prevent injuries in the future. Athletes who want to improve their exercise programs or who are trying to regain strength and full function after an injury need the services of a sports medicine professional. Sports medicine professionals might also help individuals with disablities work on on mobility and strength training.

What kind of jobs exist in sports medicine?

There are more than 70 disciplines in sports medicine and exercise science, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. These include opportunities to work as clinicians, physicians, teachers, scientists and health or fitness professionals. Sports medicine careers include athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, kinesiotherapist, nutrition and dietetics and sports medicine physician.

ExploreHealthCareers.org provides a short explanation of each:

  • Athletic trainers prevent, diagnose and treat injuries and medical conditions. They also work on rehabilitation.

  • Exercise physiologists evaluate patients’ fitness and help improve or maintain their health.

  • Kinesiotherapists work with patients to regain muscle strength and function lost due to injury or disease.

  • Dietitians and nutritionists use food science to improve clients’ health.

  • Sports medicine physicians focus on issues and injuries among both professional and amateur athletes.

What kind of training do I need for these jobs?

There are many career options at all degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate or medical school.

You can concentrate on different areas, such as strength conditioning, athletic training, biomechanics, exercise nutrition or sports management. Each level of degree, from associate’s degree in athletic training to a medical degree in sports medicine, requires increasing levels of science, anatomy and specialized training.

Sports medicine degree programs include classroom instruction (either on campus or online), hands-on learning, physical activity, healthcare instruction and often internships and assistantships.

For a comprehensive list of colleges that offer degrees in sports medicine check out this list from My College Options.

Are there sports medicine summer programs?

There are several summer programs available for students who are interested in sports medicine.

Colleges such as William and Mary, Stanford, University of Texas, University of Georgia, Ohio State and Missouri State offer summer programs. Additionally, organizations such as Nationwide Childrens Organization offer summer programs for high school students. Check your local colleges and universities to see if they provide any summer programs in this field for high school students.

Since the study of sports medicine involves the sciences, you might also consider pre-med summer programs. This is especially true if you want to become a sports medicine physician.

Are there sports medicine internships?

Some sports medicine specialists and clinics do offer internship opportunities. For instance, Sports Medicine South of Atlanta offers a summer internship program for high school students and the opportunity to shadow people in the clinical, physical therapy, and administrative departments. Check with local clinics and physicians to inquire about internships. Organizations and hospitals like Nationwide Childrens offer internships as well. Colleges and universities also provide students with internship opportunities. Check with the career center on campus.

What can I do in high school that would help me get into a sports medicine program?

Sports medicine requires much of the same preparation as pre-med. Science courses are at the top of the list for students interested in sports medicine. In addition, get involved in a sport by either participating as an athlete or becoming a team manager or assistant. Take advantage of the summer before senior year and help manage and coach recreational sports leagues and work at summer sports camps as an assistant to the coach.

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