07 November 2012

How To Pursue a Career in Sports Medicine

Even before medical school began for us a year and a half ago, Scott mentioned that he believes his specialty of preference would be Sports Medicine. Scott is a sports fanatic, in fact, he says if it's a sport, then he plays it. He'd also like to sell that t-shirt slogan to Nike. During his undergraduate studies, Scott worked as an aide in a physical therapy clinic for athletes and LOVED it! He really enjoyed working with active people of all ages who were anxious to get back to the performance level they were at before an injury. He feels like these athletes were more motivated in their recovery than maybe a non-athlete would be.

We are only in the second-year of medical school now - so he's still on-campus hitting the books - but I've already started my attempt to map out what it would take for Scott to become a doctor of sports medicine. I can almost guarantee that it is too early to have this much research done considering that my student-doctor has yet to do a clinical rotation, but it doesn't hurt to have all my resources in one place.

If you're wondering what the process is to become a team physician and if you have what it takes, check out American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM)'s brochure - Sports Medicine Specialist: Could It Be A Career for You?

The brochure linked above says what I've read before - that most team physicians complete family medicine residencies and follow up with a sports medicine fellowship, since "90% of all sports injuries are non-surgical." Family practice residencies are a plenty and often need applicants. Scutwork.com has reviews of programs from around the nation from past/current residents. Since this forum has information provided by residents, it wont be complete or sometimes very detailed, but it will be informative.

To find a list of all accredited Sports Medicine Fellowship programs visit, AMSSM.

And by chance, Morgan stumbled upon this list of open residency postings  at the American Medical Association website which could be invaluable when finding residencies or fellowships that need to be filled later in the game!

Scott had an interview with the Oregon State University team physician to ask him about his path to working with OSU. When the interview was done, Scott felt even more in love with the profession, but he also felt like the path to becoming a collegiate team physician would be more difficult than even becoming an orthopedic surgeon (super competitive!).

Next up: 3rd year rotations lottery!

UPDATE 10/2014: At this point Scott has completed a few audition rotations in his fourth year of medical school and has further insight into what type of residency to apply for in order to better position yourself for a career in sports medicine. Orthopedic surgery, family medicine, and physical medicine rehabilitation are specialties that work with athletes. Each specialty will have some areas of practice that is not sports related, so there are trade-offs with each. Scott has decided to go the family medicine route because of the doors that route opens for overall practice. He had previously considered PM&R, but has heard from residents that it is more difficult to get into a sports medicine fellowship coming from a PM&R residency. This is because many of the sports medicine fellowships are primary care based.

When looking for a family medicine residency that will prepare the resident for acceptance to a fellowship and career in sports medicine, look at the residency curriculum and faculty. This information is found outside of FREIDA, directly on the residency website. Look for sports medicine rotations in multiple years of the curriculum, faculty that have sports medicine research interest or are on a local/national sports medicine boards, and athletic event coverage.

TIP: We had initially looked only at residencies where there was also a sports medicine fellowship; however, we discovered that some of the best preparatory experience was available at unopposed residencies without a connected fellowship. The key here is not having to compete for learning and CV building opportunities with other residents or fellows. Unopposed residencies allow the students to participate in all interesting cases at the hospital, and typically train the residents for more procedures. Without a fellowship connected, students will have more access to sports related events and cases because they don't have to compete with a fellow to participate.

The upside of having a fellowship in the same hospital system as a residency is that it may improve your network and potential to match with that fellowship, but it's not guaranteed. In fact, we've heard from some fellowships that have preferences for selecting outside of their connected residency.

UPDATE 6/2017: Preparing for Fellowship