The Pediatric Sports Medicine Specialist

A pediatric sports medicine specialist is a doctor who has chosen to train and focus his or her medical practice on healing injuries caused during sports or athletic activities. These are injuries that could result from a collision between players, from a youngster working the same muscles too much,or from falling on a hard surface and fracturing a bone. If untreated, damage to a child's tendons, joints, muscles, and bones could have lasting effects on his or her growth.

Pediatric sports medicine training

To practice as a pediatric sports medicine specialist, doctors must have 4 years of medical school, 3 years of training in pediatrics, and an additional 2 years of specialized training in sports medicine. Plus, they have to earn a Certification of Added Qualification through the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatric sports medicine specialists know that children are not "small adults." They understand that the body of a child or teen is still developing and requires a different approach to treatment.

Why consider a pediatric sports medicine specialist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.6 million children are seen each year in the emergency room for injuries related to sports and recreation. Pediatric sports medicine specialists not only treat these injuries, but also tell parents how to help prevent them from recurring. Some children and teens may find it hard to talk about what's going on with their body. Another reason for them to see pediatric sports medicine specialists is that these doctors are trained to treat youngsters — they know how to work with young athletes and put them at ease. Their offices are usually designed with young patients in mind. For small children, for instance, they usually offer toys and games that may not be found in regular doctors' offices.

When to see a pediatric sports medicine specialist

A sports medicine specialist treats common sports injuries in young athletes, such as sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and injuries to ligaments.

Teen carrying a soccer ball and resting on a crutch at doctor's office

Serious problems often treated by a pediatric sports medicine specialist include:

  • Tendonitis and other overuse injuries

  • Injuries to growth plates

  • Damage to the shock-absorbing cartilage

  • Concussions

  • Concerns about nutrition or sports supplement use

  • Heat illnesses

  • Multidrug resistant staph infections

  • Care of an athlete with special needs

In addition, pediatric sports medicine specialists can help with almost any kind of pain or physical limitations that are making it hard for a child to enjoy sports or exercise. These doctors also have expertise with conditions, such as exercise-induced asthma, diabetes, eating disorders, and other diseases, that could affect a young athlete's performance.

These specialists practice in children's hospitals, private clinics, and sports medicine clinics, among other medical facilities. You might need a referral from your child's primary health care provider to see a pediatric sports medicine specialist. Make sure you understand what your health insurance plan requires before you set up an appointment.