Sports Physician Job Description


Sports physicians are also commonly known as sports medicine physicians or sports medicine doctors. There are two types of sports medicine doctors: primary sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons. According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, 90 percent of sports injuries are not surgical. These types of injuries fall under the care of a primary sports medicine doctor, while the other 10 percent fall under the care of an orthopedic surgeon. To become a sports physician, you must receive special qualifications in sports medicine.

Basic Duties

  • Sports physicians work to prevent and treat injuries associated with athletics. Most injuries sports physicians see deal with the joints, muscles and bones. Sports physicians may work with nurses, physical therapists, exercise physiologists and nutritionists after an athlete or other active person is injured. They may also deal with other medical problems in athletes such as asthma, skin conditions, concussions, heart problems or diabetes. Sports physicians also focus on preventing injury through promoting fitness and wellness.

Team Duties

  • Some sports physicians may serve as team doctors. In addition to the regular duties of a sports physician that works in a hospital or office, they have additional responsibilities. Team sports physicians are responsible for completing physical examinations before someone participates in a sport. They may need to deal with sports psychology issues and address substance abuse issues. Sports physicians communicate and coordinate with other sports medicine team members, including athletic trainers, physical therapists, coaches and school administrators.


  • Sports medicine is not a recognized residence training specialty in the medical field. This means sports physicians must go through all the training and education of a regular doctor and then pursue their specialty training. To become a physician, you must complete eight years of higher education followed by three to eight years of an internship and residency. After that, you must receive a license from the state you plan to practice.


  • Doctors who plan to pursue sports medicine must apply for a one- to two-year sports medicine fellowship program after becoming licensed. After completing a sports medicine fellowship, sports physicians must take and pass an additional examination in order to receive a Certificate in Added Qualification in sports medicine. The exam covers medical and musculoskeletal areas of medicine that a sports physician will deal with. There are only two organizations that offer this certification: the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists. You cannot take the exam unless you have completed a sports medicine fellowship.


  • The median salary for a sports physician was $236,945 in November 2009 according to The lower 25 percent of sports physicians made $172,469 and the upper 75 percent made $307,705. That median salary is higher than the average median for primary care physicians of $186,044 in May 2008 according to the United States Department of Labor.

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  • Photo Credit sports medicine image by Keith Frith from
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