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What is Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is an area of study and practice that deals with the prevention and treatment of sports injuries. Individuals in this field are trained to promote exercise and good health, as well as provide immediate care in the event that an athlete falls victim to injury. Individuals in this field have received formal medical training before specializing in the field.
Sports science is a branch of healthcare that emphasizes physical well-being – specifically the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries or ailments related to sport. Sports medicine is a relatively new branch of healthcare as specialists continue to support mainstream athletes, niche sports, and unique exercise regimens. A sports medicine graduate will be trained to understand, diagnose, and treat a variety of exercise-related ailments including: muscle strains, concussions, shin splints, high ankle sprains, muscle cramps, and dehydration.
Most Popular Sports Medicine Jobs
A sports medicine major may see a number of titles during a job search. As such, we have culled a list of commonly seen job titles to help you better understand differing job types and titles in the industry. It is important to understand the responsibilities in sports medicine will vary from employer to employer and to pay special attention to the job title and overall scope of work. A list of the most popular jobs for a sports medicine major include:
- Exercise Physiologist
- Physical Therapist
- Orthopedic Surgeon
- Exercise Scientist
- Sports Director
- Sports Camp Lead
- Athletic Trainer
- Exercise Physiologist
- Sports Lawyer
- Fitness Director
- Sport Nutritionist
Top Sports Medicine Degrees
With the array of degree choices in sports medicine, take the time to understand your college degree options below. You may then simply request information from accredited colleges and universities listed on the page to learn more about each of the degree options.
Sports Medicine Associate’s Degree
An associate’s degree in sports medicine is designed to help students seeking new employment opportunities and expand your vocational choices as a working professional. In either case, the 2-year program for an associate’s degree in sports medicine will include general education courses and core curriculum.
The objective of combining both sets of classes is to adeptly assist students expand their worldview along with vocational opportunities. Core curriculum in sports medicine will typically include: anatomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics, health, statistics, human physiology, exercise physiology, and chemistry.
The different types of associate degree programs include an Associate of Science (AS) and an Associate of Applied Science (AAS). The AS degree is heavily weighted in exercise physiology and biological sciences in addition to liberal arts classes such as philosophy, creative writing, and English. An AS degree program may be a viable option if you are considering a career as a personal trainer or fitness coordinator.
The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree track is similar to the AS with an additional focus on the technical know-how required in the medical field. AAS degree programs will often include foundational science classes such as biomechanics, kinesiology, motor behavior, and exercise psychology plus the successful completion of an internship.
Sports Medicine Bachelor’s Degree
Sports medicine degrees offered by accredited colleges and universities will either offer a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor’s of Science (BS). In many cases, schools will extend sports medicine programs with a concentration in adjacent degree like kinesiology, exercise psychology, or nutrition.
As a passionate student of sports medicine, invest the time to research school programs that work best for you and evaluate their curriculum for the best fit given your career aspirations and vocational objectives. By putting you first, you will more efficiently narrow down your school options and provide insight into future careers options as you progress from undergraduate programs forward.
Sports Medicine Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine
A master’s degree in sports medicine is known as a Master’s of Science degree or MS degree for short. The Master’s of Science program in sports medicine include science-rich upper level classes such as biomechanics, exercise physiology, musculoskeletal injuries, nutrition, sports psychology, statistical analysis, and an approved thesis project in sports medicine.
MS programs in exercise science will last 1-2 years and will very likely be conjoined with an adjacent movement science. Common areas of concentration for an MS program include: exercise physiology, public health, research, clinical exercise, wellness, nutrition, human performance, and fitness.
PhD in Sports Medicine
A doctoral degree in sports medicine is typically a two-year PhD program or Doctor of Philosophy program. The overriding objective of the PhD program in sports medicine is to prepare students to consult, lead and teach others in an academic, government, public, or private setting. Doctoral students are expected to master not only their area of specialty but leverage knowledge from adjacent disciplines such as athletic training, exercise physiology, and cognitive neuroscience.
A substantial percentage of the doctorate program in sports medicine will be invested in the dissertation, applying knowledge from lower level classes in research, applied sciences, and sports psychology. A doctoral degree in sports medicine prepares students to begin rewarding, high-level careers in colleges, healthcare organizations, fitness centers, research facilities, and physical therapy clinics.
Sports Medicine Major Requirements
Individuals in this field will receive normal medical training and residency prior to returning to school to specialize in sports medicine. A sports medicine program will cover the nuances and preventative measures employed by the field, as well as various emergency treatments that may be exhibited through various sports in order to be prepared for immediate care. Additionally, techniques will be learned that assist in keeping players fit and strong in order to avoid potential problems.
A curriculum may include:
- Sports and Treatment
- Common Ailments
- Pain Management
- Exercise Physiology
- Athletic Training
- Kinesiology & Biomechanics
- Organic Chemistry
- Musculoskeletal Human Anatomy
Sports medicine schools should have active programs that are up to date regarding the evolving methodologies and techniques developed to deal with specific sport related issues. Additionally, current information regarding preventive care and environment where such an education can applied and practices are ideal for potential sports medicine specialists to be. Contacting programs to see what kind of practical experience is available can go a long way in determining which school is right for the individuals student.
Employment Opportunities in Sports Medicine
Individuals in this field will typically seek employment through professional sports teams, or as personal hires of individual players or group of players. A doctor will receive his or her certification through one of the many certifying bodies that provide additional education in sports medicine.
Athletic programs at schools and individual leagues may also have professionals employed to ensure safety at sporting events. Job growth is expected to increase as the population grows and more individuals seek athletics as a personal, collegiate or professional activity requiring more healthcare professionals.
Top Sports Medicine Job Titles
While jobs, roles, and responsibilities will vary from company to company, a list of common job titles in sports medicine is important to know. The list below represents a list of the top job titles found in a survey of sports medicine professionals from around the country.
- Clinical Exercise Physiologist
- Bariatric Weight Loss Clinic Manager and Counselor
- Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Director
- Clinical Exercise Specialist
- Coordinator Cardiopulmonary Services
- Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation
- Director of Rehabilitation and Wellness
- Exercise Physiologist
- Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant
- Health and Physical Education Professor (HPE Professor)
- Physical Education Professor (PE Professor)
- Certified Athletic Trainer
- Clinical Instructor
- Head Athletic Trainer/Strength Coach
- Sports Medicine Coordinator
- Fitness Director
- Fitness Coordinator/Specialist/Instructor
- Personal Trainer
Sports Medicine Professional Certificates
The field of sports medicine is a broad field of study for those passionate about helping others, sport, athletic training, and physical performance. Given the importance of maintaining professional integrity and quality in the profession, professional certification is required in the sports medicine field.
It is not only a means to ensure skills and knowledge of a practitioner are sufficient, it provides qualified professionals with the credentials to support their investment in the sports medicine arena.
While a certification may not be required by your state, your future employer may indeed mandate a certification for their office or organization. Earning a professional certification along with a college degree from an accredited university adds credibility and helps you stand out in a competitive workplace environment. Examples of professional certificates may be earned from the ACSM, ACE or the NASM in one or more of the following areas:
- Certified Health Fitness Specialist (CHFS)
- Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES)
- Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP)
- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
- Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)
- Certified Group Exercise Instructor (GEI)
- Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET)
- Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
- Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS)
List of Associations for Sports Medicine Majors
- National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery & Sports Medicine (ISAKOS)
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- Health Professionals Network (HPN)
- American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP)
- National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM)
- Board Certification for the Athletic Trainer (BCAT)
- National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA)
- American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM)
- American Medical Athletic Association (AMAA)
Sports Medicine Resources
Certifying agencies include the American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainers Association among many others. Individuals should choose the organization that best reflects their backgrounds and goals when considering certification and education. For additional information about Sports Medicine, read our Complete Career Guide in Sports Medicine on our blog.