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Sports Medicine Nurses Have Many Career Options

Career News October 24, 2013

For a skilled nurse needing a change of focus after years in the profession, sports medicine can offer a rewarding career alternative. While there is no recognized specialty certification for this area of nursing, qualified candidates will find many types of fitness nursing jobs available.

Sports/Fitness Nursing

The discipline of sports medicine goes all the way back to primitive man, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. With the appearance of the Olympics, the early Greeks considered exercise necessary for both conditioning purposes and treating injuries.

Where there are sports, there are sports injuries and a need for medical professionals to treat them. Little more than a decade ago, 2.5 million students in U.S. schools took part in varsity sports and racked up 750,000 injuries. Add to that sports activities held outside school or for leisure purposes, and the potential for injury is enormous. With proper training, nurses can provide essential care for athletic-type injuries.

Career Options

While the nursing profession has not actually developed a specialty in sports or fitness nursing on an academic or a professional level, Minority Nurse indicates that the number of nurses working in this area is growing. Here are just three types of fitness nursing jobs available as career options:

Fitness centers

Nurses understand the relationship well between physical fitness and disease prevention. Fitness centers and businesses with on-site fitness programs have begun hiring them to supervise activities. Hospitals and HMOs use nurses to staff their fitness centers and provide information on nutrition, exercise and stress management.

Sports teams

When it comes to working directly in sports, a nurse’s employer might be a professional team, a college or university, a hospital or clinic or an orthopedic practice. While some nurses work with sports injuries full time, for others, this is a part-time career. Some work on a contract basis with professional teams.

Cardiac rehab

Nurses who want to continue working in a hospital setting while practicing sports-related medicine can transition to cardiac rehabilitation units. As cardiac rehab nurses, they work with individuals who have undergone a heart attack or experienced some other cardiac event.

The objective is improving patients’ conditioning. These nurses teach patients the correct way to exercise, encourage them to continue their rehabilitation activities and provide dietary information.

Their focus is not on activities a personal trainer performs, but on monitoring the patient’s condition and intervening if necessary during a rehab session. Cardiac rehab nurses work directly with physical therapists and nutritionists to come up with a program that will provide the best chance of recovery for their patients.


Earnings vary widely for a nurse in fitness medicine due to the many types of employers who hire these professionals. The typical employee is a registered nurse (RN). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for RNs was $64,690 in May 2010. Those working in private general medical and surgical hospitals earned the most, $66,650.

Job-search site Monster quotes $65,500 as the median salary for a sports-medicine nurse.


Candidates have the opportunity to enter fitness nursing in a number of ways. Some nursing undergraduates with an early interest in this type of work opt to minor in sports medicine or physical education.

Nurses interested in changing the direction of their careers usually need to undergo additional training in treating sports-related injuries. Those interested in jobs, in elementary or secondary schools, might need to take specific courses related to working with youngsters, participating in sports offered through the school district.

Nurses who have an interest in athletic training will want to complete educational and practice requirements related to personal training. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree, in nursing, might wish to consider graduate programs, such as the Master of Science degree in Sports Medicine, offered by the Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

The program’s objective is providing students with both the courses and the hands-on experience required for advanced sports-medicine skills. Applicants must show that they are already athletic training certified by an organization such as the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer.

Sports medicine nursing is an exciting career path gaining in popularity with the nursing profession. It is particularly appealing to nurses interested in practicing preventive medicine.

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