Schools for Aspiring Sports Medicine Physicians

Dec 07, 2019

Sports medicine programs teach aspiring physicians how to assist with the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries resulting from athletic activity. Becoming a sports medicine physician requires completion of a medical degree, along with a residency and possibly a fellowship specifically in sports medicine.

Sports medicine isn't typically offered as a specialty area by medical schools, but some schools offer it as a sub-specialty within emergency medicine, family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics or orthopedics program. There are also relevant undergraduate degrees in the field.

Top 10 Medical Schools

According to the 2019 rankings of U.S. News & World Report, these are the top ten medical schools in the country:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition (2019-2020)*
Harvard University Boston, MA 4-year, Private $61,600
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private $53,400
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private $58.197
University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private $57,884
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public $34,977 in-state, $47,222 out-of-state
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private $61,146
University of California - Los Angeles (Geffen) Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public $35,187 in-state, $47,432 out-of-state
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Private $65,044
Cornell University New York, NY 4-year, Private $57,050
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (Alix) Rochester, MN 4-year, Private $55,500
New Your University (Langone) New York, NY 4-year, Private N/A

Source: *U.S. News & World Report

School Selection Criteria

Students choosing a medical school may want to consider the following:

  • Aspiring medical students should look for schools that are located near teaching hospitals and healthcare systems that allow for outstanding clinical experience.
  • Individuals considering a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program should find out about the school's track record for training medical doctors based on residency and fellowship placement rates.
  • The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine's Fellowship Field Manual ( recommends that potential fellows speak with the program director about hospital privileges, program requirements, and licensure.
  • Both residencies and fellowships are paid positions, so students may want to review the salary and benefits before committing to a fellowship.

Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring sports medicine physicians can choose any undergraduate major, as long as they also take the required premed courses. One way to do this is to major in biology, as the program usually includes not only the baseline requirements for pre-med study but also advanced courses in molecular biology and biochemistry. Other undergraduate programs offer premed majors as one of several pre-professional courses of study. Because these programs are geared toward students who intend to apply to medical school, they typically include all the prerequisites required by most medical programs.

Doctor of Medicine

Requirements for the first and second years of medical programs are similar across most schools, consisting of preclinical coursework and some clinical courses. These include human anatomy, patient and physician relationship, cell processes, integrated body function, and neuroscience. The majority of medical students' third and fourth years are typically devoted to clinical rotations, clerkships, and electives, although this can vary somewhat by program and specialty. Students specializing in sports medicine may want to take courses recommended by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Sports Medicine Residency

Residents get hands-on experience treating and preventing sports-related injuries. Sports medicine rotations take place at school clinics and medical centers; some are affiliated with local athletic programs. Students generally rotate from one specialty to the next at multiple hospital sites. Residencies that focus on multiple specialties can take up to five years to complete. Students not interested in orthopedic surgery might pursue a general family medicine residency, followed by a sports medicine fellowship. Residents attend presentations, lectures, and conferences on a wide variety of topics.

Sports Medicine Fellowship

A 1-year fellowship provides focused training in a specific area. Fellowships range in their areas of focus depending upon the facility and the supervising physicians, and some allow fellows to rotate through more than one area, such as physical therapy, orthopedics, and primary care. Most of the work is with patients, with didactic classes and seminars that cover a wide range of topics in the field.

The academic track to becoming a sports medicine physician begins with undergraduate pre-medical training, followed by medical school, a sports medicine-focused residency, and a fellowship. By choosing a top school that offers comprehensive clinical experience, students can maximize their chances of academic and career success.

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