Sports medicine is branch of medical practice specialize in treating athletes, from professionals to amateurs, as well as week-end warriors, individuals who are participating in physical fitness and sports training program. They also help individuals improve their athletic performance, recover from injuries, rehabilitate injuries and return athletic individuals to their respective sports. They play an important role in preventing injuries as well.

Sports medicine specialists treat musculoskeletal (Muscle and Bone) and non-musculoskeletal injuries. For example, acute ankle sprain, muscle strain, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, tendonitis, tendinosis, overuse injuries, compartment syndrome, stress fractures, Achilles injuries  and fractures are musculoskeletal injuries. Non musculoskeletal injuries are concussion, infections, asthmas, and juvenile diabetes, and the list goes on. They also advise on nutrition, supplements, overtraining, and delayed onset muscle pain. Sports medicine physicians are any physician who has taken a sports medicine fellowship. They address all the above mentioned injuries, except fractures and surgeries, which are taken care by the orthopedic surgeons. 90% of sports injuries are non-surgical in nature.

Sports medicine specialists perform sports physicals on individuals who want to participate in sports or start an exercise program . They check all the systems of the body, making sure you are safe and ready to embark into a sport or exercise program. Moreover, physical therapists also perform sports physicals call Functional Movement Assessment (FMA). It is a specialized assessment, which screen sport movements . They screen for imbalance in muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, muscle and joint stability and posture required to perform your sports or exercise program.

There are two kind of movements, natural and acquired. Natural movements are movements that prepare us for walking, jumping, running , throwing and so forth. Example of natural movements are crawling, rolling, rocking, squat, balancing, dying bug, birddog and cross crawl. Acquired movements are all movements that we learn throughout our lives to perform activities of daily living and sports. All the acquired movements originate from the natural movement. Think of natural movements as the foundation of all movements. For example, squat is a natural and functional movement required to perform any sports or exercise program. Squat (natural) is affected by tightness in the hip flexor muscle due to prolonged sitting (acquired). During a squat screen, individuals with hip flexor tightness tend to list either to the right or the left, depending on which hip flexor muscle is affected. Individuals with thoracic spine (upper back) lack of mobility tend to lean forward excessively. These are abnormal movements which need correction before starting a sport or exercise program. Not correcting these movements will cause injury to the knees or hip and even the shoulder, depending on the sports you practice. This is just one aspect of the screening process.

A lot of individuals are not aware of the Functional Movement Assessment done by physical therapist. I recommend the Functional Movement Assessment to all individuals who are participating in sports or exercise program after they completed their physicals by the sports specialist. A part of the Functional Movement Assessment predicts the kind of injury you might sustain while performing your sports.  The FMA identifies the abnormal movements possibly coming to strength issues, flexibility issues, stability issues, mobility issues, and so forth. A corrective set of exercises are given to the individuals to correct and normalized the movement before injury happen. For example, studies show that  women experience more knee injuries while playing sports such as soccer than men by a ratio of 15:1. Yet  simple jumping  and  posture assessments can reveal the risk of knee and hip injuries via the FMA. Studies also showed that  knee injury prevention  program  reduces  knee injuries  from  77% to 88%. Coaches can add this type of exercises at the beginning of every soccer practice. If time is a problem, athletes can come early and do the exercises  independently before the soccer practice. Federation International of Football (soccer) Association has a set of eleven warm up exercises on their website to guide soccer athletes from professionals to week- end warriors level to practice to prevent knee injuries.

Interestingly, the aspect of prevention program is forgotten in sports medicine, especially among young athletes, high school athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and week-end warriors.  As for the FMA, about 90% of athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLS, and others are doing the screening. The young athletes, high school athletes, fitness enthusiasts and week-end warriors are not aware this screening exists. Learn more about sports medicine

by Raj Issuree, MPT



Mandelbaum B, Silver H et al. Effectiveness of a neuromuscular and proprioceptive training program in preventing the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injuries in female athletes. Am J Sports Med 2005; 33(7): 1003-1010

Ashkan Kiani, Einar Hellquist et al. Prevention of soccer-related knee injuries in teenaged girls. Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(1): 43-49