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Sports Medicine

Sports medicine, also known as sport and exercise medicine, is a branch of medicine that deals with physical fitness and the treatment and prevention of injuries related to sports and exercise. Although most sports teams have employed team physicians for many years, it is only since the late 20th century that sports medicine has emerged as a distinct field of health care.


Sport and exercise medicine doctors are specialist physicians who have completed medical school, residency training in a specialty such as psychiatry or orthopedic surgery, and then gone on to complete additional fellowship training in sport and exercise medicine. Specializing in the treatment of athletes and other physically active individuals, they have extensive education in musculoskeletal medicine. SEM doctors treat injuries such as muscle, ligament, tendon and bone problems, but may also treat chronic illnesses that can affect physical performance, such as asthma and diabetes. SEM doctors also advise on managing and preventing injuries.

Specialists in SEM diagnose and treat any medical conditions which regular exercisers or sports persons encounter. The majority of a SEM physicians' time is therefore spent treating musculoskeletal injuries, however other conditions include female athlete triad, unexplained underperformance syndrome, exercise-induced asthma, screening for cardiac abnormalities and diabetes in sports. In addition team physicians working in elite sports often play a role in performance medicine, whereby an athletes’ physiology is monitored, and aberrations corrected, in order to achieve peak physical performance.

SEM consultants also deliver clinical physical activity interventions, negating the burden of disease directly attributable to physical inactivity and the compelling evidence for the effectiveness of exercise in the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of disease

Exercise medicine

The Foresight Report issued by the Government Office for Science, 17 October 2007, highlighted the unsustainable health and economic costs of a nation that continues to be largely sedentary. It forecasts that the incremental costs of this inactivity will be £10 billion per year by 2050 and the wider costs to society and businesses £49.9billion. Physical inactivity inevitably leads to ill-health and it forecasts the cost of paying for this impact will be unsustainable in the future. No existing group of medical specialists is equipped with the skills and training to deal with this challenge.

The concept of Exercise as Health tool or [2] is becoming increasingly important. SEM Physicians are able to evaluate medical patients co-morbidities, perform exercise testing and provide an exercise prescription, together with a motivational program and exercise classes.

Public health

SEM physicians are frequently involved in promoting the therapeutic benefits of physical activity, exercise and sport for the individuals and communities. SEM Physicians in the UK spend a period of their training in public health, and advise public health physicians on matters relating to physical activity promotion. An example of published work includes the Royal College of publication

Common sports injuries

  • Concussion– caused by severe head trauma where the brain moves violently within the skull so that brain cells all fire at once, much like a seizure
  • Muscle Cramps– a sudden tight, intense pain caused by a muscle locked in spasm. Muscle cramps are also recognized as an involuntary and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax
  • ACL Sprains– The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament involved in knee stabilization. An ACL rupture can occur when the foot is planted and the knee twists to change direction.
  • ACL Tears– The anterior cruciate ligament; one of four major knee ligament necessary for comfortable knee movement, tears, causing major pain and causes the knee to "give out". The knee ACL can tear for a number of reasons causing the knee to never be the same.
  • Ankle Sprain– The ligaments that hold the ankle bones in place can easily be overstretched.
  • Shin Splints– The tissue that attaches the muscles of your lower leg to the shin bone may be pulling away from the bone, or it may be inflamed from overuse. [5]
  • Muscle Strains– tears in muscle that cause pain and loss of function


In recent years Western society has increasingly recognized the dangers of physical inactivity, and significant efforts have been made within the public health community to encourage the nation to become more physically active. To reflect this paradigm shift BASM has renamed itself BASEM (British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine) and the specialty itself has rebranded from Sports Medicine to Sport & Exercise Medicine. Since 2007 several deaneries across the UK have established training programs in SEM, and recurrent funding for 50 National Training Numbers (NTN’s) is available.


  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Founded in 1954, the American College of Sports Medicine is the largest and most prominent sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. ACSM has more than 45,000 International, National and Regional Chapter members.
  • American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine is a world leader in sports medicine education, research, communication, and fellowship. Founded in 1972, AOSSM is an international organization of orthopedic surgeons and other allied health professionals dedicated to sports medicine. Essentially every professional and collegiate team has a team physician who is a member of the AOSSM.
  • Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) is an organization of physicians committed to excellence in the practice of medicine as it applies to all aspects of physical activity. Our mission is to forge a strong, collective voice for sport medicine; to be a leader in advancing the art and science of sport medicine, including health promotion and disease prevention, for the benefit of all Canadians through advocacy, education, research and service.
  • American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) Founded in 1991, AMSSM is a multi-disciplinary organization of physicians whose members are dedicated to education, research, collaboration and fellowship within the field of Sports Medicine. It now comprises over 2100 Sports Medicine Physicians whose goal is to provide a link between the rapidly expanding core of knowledge related to sports medicine and its application to patients in a clinical setting.
  • National Athletic Trainers' Association(NATA) Founded in 1950, the mission of the National Athletic Trainers Association is to enhance the quality of health care provided by certified athletic trainers and to advance the athletic training profession.
  • Canadian Athletic Therapists' Association(CATA) Founded in 1965. The Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA) is an organization devoted to the comprehensive health care of an individual at any level of physical ability by Certified Athletic Therapists.
  • American Medical Association(AMA) The American Medical Association recognized Athletic Training (AT) as an allied health profession in 1990.