Sports Medicine Doctor Vs Orthopedic Surgeon

Jun 15, 2021

Comparing Sports Medicine Doctors to Orthopedic Surgeons

One of the key distinctions between sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons is that their patients and their patients' medical needs can differ significantly. While an orthopedic surgeon may see some patients referred by a sports medicine doctor, there are many patients an orthopedic surgeon may treat that would not receive medical care from a sports medicine doctor.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2020)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)**
Sports Medicine Doctors Medical degree; residency; fellowship $182,900 8% (physicians and surgeons, all other)
Orthopedic Surgeons Medical degree; residency $384,238 1% (surgeons)

Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Sports Medicine Doctors vs. Orthopedic Surgeons

Sports medicine doctors provide preventative care to help athletes prevent injuries. Orthopedic surgeons typically see patients who have chronic conditions or serious injuries that may require surgery. Both sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons may be involved in assessing injuries and determining the appropriate treatment for patients. Sports medicine doctors may refer patients to orthopedic surgeons or other medical specialists for further assessment and treatment. Orthopedic surgeons are qualified to operate on patients if they require surgery as part of their treatment. They may set broken bones or repair disks or other parts of the body that have been affected by illness or injury.

Sports Medicine Doctors

Sports medicine doctors specialize in providing medical care to athletes. Some work in clinics while others are employed by hospitals, sports teams and fitness centers. Those who work for teams may be required to travel with the team. Hours for sports medicine doctors can vary widely depending on where they work. They must complete extensive training, which includes completing a medical degree, followed by three years in a residency program and two additional years of practical training in a fellowship program.

Job responsibilities of a sports medicine doctor include:

  • Evaluating a patient's condition
  • Providing information about injury prevention
  • Diagnosing and treating injuries
  • Prescribing medication
  • Updating medical records

Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedic surgeons are required to spend five years in a residency program to prepare for their career. With additional training they may opt to specialize; some elect to focus on treating a specific part of the body, such as hands. Most orthopedic surgeons work in medical offices and hospitals. Since it's common for their patients to be experiencing pain they should be compassionate and have good interpersonal skills so that they can effectively interact with patients. They treat conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, such as arthritis or broken bones.

Job responsibilities of an orthopedic surgeon include:

  • Assessing patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Providing prescriptions for pain medication
  • Operating on patients
  • Referring patients to other medical professionals

Related Careers

Those considering a career as a sports medicine doctor may also be interested in becoming an athletic trainer since athletic trainers also work with athletes to prevent or treat injuries. Individuals considering becoming an orthopedic surgeon may also want to consider a future as a chiropractor since chiropractors also treat the musculoskeletal system.

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