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Sports Medicine Employment Outlook and Career Options

Job Descriptions February 13, 2013

Prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries is the focus of the rapidly-growing specialization of sports medicine. The movement and performance of the human body is improved by the use of some sports medicine treatments. Different people benefit from sports medicine therapy; these include physically challenged individuals who want to expand their physical capabilities, individuals seeking effective exercise programs, individuals who want to regain their strength after an injury, and athletes. In this article, we will take a look at employment outlook and career options for those who are interested in pursuing a career in sports medicine.

Sports Medicine Career Options

There is a large variety of sports medicine career options. Even the careers of some dietitians, nutritionists, and nurses fall under the umbrella of sports medicine, if those professionals focus on a different aspect of sports or fitness. Some popular job titles in the field of sports medicine include physical therapist, kinesiotherapist, exercise physiologist, athletic trainer, and sports medicine physician.

Physical Therapists

Individuals suffering from a variety of physical challenges such as sports-related disabilities or injuries can rely on diagnosis and treatment from physical therapists. Physical therapists help restore mobility and function to injured limbs or other parts of the body, relieve pain and try to limit or prevent the effects of disabilities caused by a disease or accident. Most entry level jobs in physical therapy require candidates to hold an accredited postgraduate degree in physical therapy (source: BLS). A list of accredited programs can be obtained from the American Physical Therapy Association website (www.apta.org). Every state requires physical therapists to obtain licensure before they can practice in the state. While licensing requirements vary from state to state, common requirements include passing the National Physical Therapy examination and holding an accredited degree.

Kinesiotherapists

Kinesiotherapists focus on the health benefits of exercise. They supervise and develop exercise programs to help people regain their mobility and strength following an illness or injury. Kinesiotherapist creates therapeutic exercise plans; including aquatic exercise, and help people use a prosthetic limb or re-learn how to walk. Degree programs in kinesiotherapy are accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAHEEP – www.caheep.org). Kinesiotherapist can become Registered Kinesiotherapist (RKT) by obtaining certification offered from the American Kinesiotherapy Association (www.akta.org).

Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists perform work aimed at maintaining and improving the physical fitness of individuals. Their focus is on the cardiovascular system, and on helping the rehabilitation of people suffering from heart problems or other chronic diseases. Customized exercise plans and sports training counseling and guidance are developed by exercise physiologists. Exercise physiologists are board certified by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (www.asep.org), and they are healthcare professionals that have a degree in exercise physiology.

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers work, treat, and diagnose to prevent injuries, including sports-related injuries in patients at any age level. Unlike fitness specialists or personal trainers; athletic trainers are recognized as allied health professionals by the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) an athletic trainer typically holds an undergraduate degree, but could also have a graduate degree or even a doctoral degree (www.bls.gov). Athletic trainers have to be registered or licensed to work in the majority of states. In the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Alaska, and California; licensure are voluntary, but recommended for those who are looking for work.

Sports Medicine Physicians

Both doctors of osteopathy and medical doctors deal with sports-related illnesses and injuries. Medical doctors perform surgery, prescribe medications, and treat and diagnose patients. They earn an accredited Doctor of Medicine degree from a medical school. Osteopathic doctors also treat and diagnose patients, but they focus on the body’s musculoskeletal system and take a more holistic approach to medicine. They earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (D.O.) through a college of osteopathic medicine. Both types of doctors need to be licensed to practice medicine and finish resident training.

Other Certifications

Sports medicine specialty certifications such as Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) are offered by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The ACSM provides clinical certifications for physiologists and exercise specialists, as well as certificates for exercise specialists that work with people who have disabilities and cancer patients (www.acsm.org).

Sports Medicine Employment Outlook

The sports medicine field is rapidly growing compared to any other healthcare fields according to ExploreHealthCareers.org. Sports medicine trainers, doctors, and other professionals treat both non-athletes and athletes that will expand the number of people they serve and the scope of their practices. O*NET OnLine, from U.S. Department of Labor, projects a growth rate of twenty percent or higher from 2008 to 2018 for the occupations of physical therapist, athletic trainer, and sports medicine physician, which will be significantly faster than any other occupations growth rate during this period (online.onetcenter.org).

Salary Information

Depending on the occupation of sports medicine specialists, their salaries will vary considerably. In April 2010, majority of sports medicine physicians made $118,960 to $374,300, according to Salary.com. The website also reported that during the same month the pay for the majority of athletic trainers range from $32,536 to $50,943. During this period, most physical therapists salaries ranged from $63,467 to $83,950, and exercise physiologists reported salaries from $36,280 to $56,274.

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