While doctors with many different types of specialities can treat sports injuries, sports medicine doctors take their knowledge of sports-related injuries and health issues to a higher level. These specialists not only treat injuries to joint, tendons, ligaments and muscles, but they also advise patients how to get the best performance from their bodies. The compensation for this branch of medicine is indicative of how important injury recovery and health has become in both amateur and professional sports.
There are two different types of sports doctors: primary care sports doctors and orthopaedic sports surgeons. The first type is best for injuries that can be treated with non-surgical methods such as physiotherapy, while the second is best in treating injuries that require surgical repair. The two may work in tandem, with the orthopaedic surgeon performing the surgical treatment and the primary care sports doctor following up with rehabilitation and post-surgical monitoring. Most of the injuries treated by sports doctors are injuries to muscles, joints and bones, particularly of the legs, ankles and feet.
The average annual salary for a sports doctor varies according to the size and scope of the practice, along with the type of clientele treated. According to Salary.com, the median salary in December 2010 is £155,923. The middle 50 per cent of all sports doctors earn between £113,467 and £202,493. The total annual compensation may be higher, since many salaried sports doctors also receive benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing and retirement funds.
Some sports doctors work with professional sports teams or top amateur athletes as staff physicians or regular consultants. Still others work in clinics, hospitals, physician groups or in private practice. The majority of sports doctors treat injuries, which means they may need to be on call or work odd hours in response to emergencies. Those who work with sports teams are present at every game and travel with the team. Other sports doctors focus more on overall health and performance enhancement, allowing them the ability to work a more regular schedule, since they do not treat trauma cases on a regular basis.
Sports doctors initially pursue the standard path to becoming a physician -- a bachelor’s in pre-med or other related major, followed by medical school. After graduation, they must do a residency in an accepted branch of medicine, such as family, orthopaedic or internal medicine. According to the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine, sports medicine is not a residency speciality of its own. However, after completing a residency in another field for about three years, those wishing to become sports doctors can apply for a one- to two-year sports medicine fellowship. This will allow them to take the examination for a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in sports medicine. This will qualify them as sports doctors.