Sports medicine is a recognized medical specialty. Its focus is physical fitness, the treatment of injuries from exercise and sports activities, and the prevention of those kinds of injuries. As a specialty, it is quite new; sports medicine was first recognized near the end of the 20th century. In addition to chiropractors, physicians, physical therapists and exercise physiologists may specialize in sports medicine. Sports medicine specialists may treat the general public or work with professional teams or athletic clubs.
With the exception of concussions, which are most likely to occur in contact sports like football, most sports injuries affect the extremities. Running, jumping, pivots and sudden stops place considerable stress on the legs while throwing, batting, using a tennis racket and rowing affect the arms. Any of these areas can develop sprains or strains, and fractures, dislocations or torn muscles, tendons and ligaments can occur. The shoulder is subject to rotator cuff injuries, while the plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue on the sole of the foot) can become inflamed in a condition called fasciitis. Athletes can also develop carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist from motions like using a tennis racket or pitching.
In some cases, yes. A professional athlete may need much more focused and intense rehabilitation than the weekend warrior. For professionals, time constraints during the season and the need for an extra level of fitness, flexibility, strength and control are vitally important to prevent an injury from being a career-ender. A particular injury or an injury to the dominant hand may also have a major effect on the weekend warrior.
Treatment is only one part of sports medicine; prevention is equally important. The sports medicine specialist can analyze gait or movement patterns, identify some that have the potential to cause injury and help the athlete change the way he or she moves. Uneven or excessively tight muscles can also lead to an injury that might be prevented with stretching and strengthening exercises.