What is the difference between a Sports Medicine Physician and an
Orthopedic Surgeon?

Sports Medicine physicians specialize in the complete health care of athletes.
Orthopedic Surgeons specialize in the operative treatment of injuries.  Both are trained
in the care of musculoskeletal problems. Approximately 90% of all sports injuries are
non-surgical.  When surgery is necessary, the Sports Medicine physician can expedite
referral to the Orthopedic Surgeon.  More patients are referred to Dr. Silberman by
orthopedic surgeons, than Dr. Silberman refers to orthopedic surgeons.

Sports Medicine physicians are additionally trained in the non-musculoskeletal aspects
of sports health.  Common examples include: concussions, exercise-induced asthma,
overtraining and fatigue, return to play issues after being sick or injured, nutrition,
training and conditioning.

To become a Sports Medicine Physician, one must complete a residency in Family
Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, or Pediatrics and then a Fellowship
of 1 to 2 years of training specifically focused on Sports Medicine - the comprehensive
care of the athlete's orthopedic, medical, nutritional, and psychosocial needs.

The Sports Medicine physician's training is spent primarily in the office, in the training
room, on the field, at mass participation events, and in human performance labs.  The
Orthopedic Surgeon's training is primarily spent in the operating room, emergency
room, and hospital.  An Orthopedic Surgeon may do a surgical sports medicine
fellowship focused on gaining additional surgical skills in shoulder and knee arthroscopic
surgery.  Most orthopedic surgeons are not trained in MSK Ultrasound, an invaluable
tool for the sports medicine physician, enabling sports medicine physicians rapid in
office diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries and ensuring accurate needle placement for
injections.

Sports Medicine Physicians are also ideal doctors for the non-athlete as well - for those
who wish to begin an exercise program, for the "weekend warrior", for the "industrial
athlete", for workman's comp, for motor vehicle accidents, for the older wise individual,
for any individual who has sustained an injury, experiences musculoskeletal pain, or is
looking to improve their overall health.

You may come across physicians called Physiatrists who claim to practice sports
medicine.  Physiatrists are a cross between psychiatry, orthopedics, and neurology.  
They are rehabilitation medicine physicians.  They are specialists in caring for stroke
victims, those with spinal cord injuries, disabilities, amputations, or traumatic brain
injuries.  They sometime specialize in pain medicine and perform epidurals.  They
sometimes specialize in performing EMGs or nerve conduction tests.  A physiatrist or
physician trained in rehabilitative medicine can not sit for the board examination in sports
medicine.

The sports medicine board certification program is jointly developed by the American
Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), the American Board of Emergency Medicine
(ABEM), the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the American Board
of Pediatrics (ABP).  To ensure you are receiving the highest standard of  care make
sure the sports medicine physician you are seeing: 1. Completed a minimum of one year
in an ACGME accredited Sports Medicine fellowship program, associated with an
ACGME accredited residency in Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Internal
Medicine, or Pediatrics, and 2. Are board certified and passed the Sports Medicine
Board certification examination.
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