Published on July 28, 2021

Sports medicine: Is it right for me?

Being active provides many benefits like improved health, strength and stamina but from time to time you may encounter setbacks - including injury. Seeking help from your primary care provider is a great place to start. If you need additional care, they may recommend that you visit a sports medicine physician.

What is sports medicine?

Dr. Luis Salazar

Dr. Luis Salazar

When you think of sports medicine, you may think of a doctor or trainer working on the sidelines with a professional team. However, sports medicine is more than that. You don’t have to be an elite or a competitive athlete to see a sports medicine physician. These clinicians provide care for active people or athletes looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, treating both exercise and sports-related injuries.

“We used to think that sports medicine physicians were synonymous with orthopedic surgeons and they’re not,” said Dr. Luis Salazar, a sports medicine physician with OrthoKansas. “Most people aren’t familiar with sports medicine. We don’t tape ankles or do rehab. We’re multi-specialty musculoskeletal health and well-being physicians who can take care of all of you. That’s the beautiful part of our work. We treat active individuals and get them back to their pre-injury activity level or even higher.”

Sports medicine physicians are board-certified in emergency, family or internal medicine, pediatrics or physical medicine and rehabilitation. They’ve been fellowship-trained in sports medicine, hold a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine and can provide treatment for:

  • Athletes with chronic or acute illnesses, such as mononucleosis or asthma
  • Concussions and other head injuries
  • Fractures
  • Overuse injuries
  • “Return to play” decisions in the sick or injured athlete
  • Sprains and strains

OrthoKansas – a regional destination for progressive, multidisciplinary orthopedic and sports medicine care – has four sports medicine providers on staff. In addition to Dr. Salazar, patients might see Dr. Emily Heronemus, Dr. Stephan Prô or Dr. Douglass Stull. These providers provide innovative treatment and therapies for patients of all ages and abilities.

“We don’t just care for athletes. Anyone who has been, is or wants to be active can come see the sports medicine physicians at OrthoKansas. We treat everything from infant and pediatric injuries to end-stage active folks and everything in between,” he said.

Should I see my primary care provider or a sports med physician?

When you have a non-emergent injury and need care, Dr. Salazar said your primary care provider is a great place to start. If additional care is needed, you may then be referred to a sports medicine physician.

“If you haven’t seen improvement of your injury through traditional means of care or when your primary care provider isn’t comfortable treating your condition, come see us. A higher level of care may be necessary when there’s a roadblock or a plateau. We want to be that resource and we’re happy to help,” he said.

Sports medicine physicians also serve as a stepping stone between primary care providers and orthopedic surgeons. Dr. Salazar said they’re able to take care of 97% of the musculoskeletal injuries that don’t need surgery.

“We work closely with your primary care provider when your injury and ailments cross together and determine how they might limit your care. We’ve got the background to foresee those difficulties and can collaborate back and forth,” he said.

What about sports physicals? Who should I see?

Student-athletes may be required to undergo a sports physical before being allowed to participate each season. When it’s time to schedule yours, Dr. Salazar said that who you see depends on your provider.

“Primary care providers have an established relationship with their patients and you’re more likely to disclose any injuries you have to them. These physicals are in place to mitigate risk. Who knows you and your family history better than your PCP?” he said. “They’re able to provide screening, vaccination updates and look at any other prevention and treatment that may be necessary, all at the same visit. If they have any concern about your participation, they may refer you to a sports medicine physician for further evaluation.”

LMH Health and OrthoKansas have partnered on the field with NCAA Division I, NAIA, semi-professional and high school athletes for more than 45 years. Our sports medicine team provides sports physicals each year at local high schools and universities, including Baker and the University of Kansas.

“If you don’t have a primary care provider and need a sports physical, you can turn to our team at OrthoKansas for help,” Dr. Salazar said.

What if I need surgery – can you do that?

Too often, people are hurt and think they need an orthopedic surgeon. This can be frustrating. Our team will meet with you to look at your goals, how you can meet those to stay active and determine if surgery is really in the cards. While the goal is to avoid surgical intervention, some sports medicine physicians do perform surgery when needed.

“Dr. Heronemus and I are primary care sports medicine physicians, so we’re able to perform procedures such as injections and other non-invasive procedures. Both Dr. Prô and Dr. Stull practice orthopedic sports medicine, so they’re able to perform surgery if it’s appropriate for you,” Dr. Salazar said.

The goals of the sports medicine physicians at OrthoKansas are the same as yours: to help you recover from an injury, prevent future injuries and improve your mobility and performance. We’re your resource when you’re not sure where to start and don’t want to get hurt.

“The fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians at OrthoKansas are here to provide you with comprehensive, personalized care so you can return to your pre-injury form or better and maximize your lifelong health,” Dr. Salazar said. “Don’t wait weeks for care. You can see our team quickly and often get same-day or next-day care. Give us a call and we’ll provide the care you need close to home.”

Autumn BishopStory by Autumn Bishop

Autumn is the marketing manager and content strategist at LMH Health.

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Sports medicine: Is it right for me?

Health Reimagined Video

What is sports medicine?

Luis Salazar, MD,
Sports Medicine Physician