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Career profile: Sports doctor

Career profile: Sports doctorWho gets sportsmen and women back on their feet and competing after an injury? Sports physicians play an important role in helping top athletes to recover properly from physical setbacks.

A what?

There is no strict definition of a sports doctor, rather this is a catch-all phrase for a variety of medical professionals with a specific interest in sports injuries, which could include orthopaedic surgeons, orthopaedic physicians or rheumatologists.

On the job

Sports doctors treat the musculoskeletal system - ligaments, joints, bones, tendons, muscles and nerves. Some generalists treat the entire human body, others specialise in specific areas of the body or in a specific joint, such as the knee. Knee complaints are the most common injuries treated by sports doctors. Rheumatologists specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries affecting the joints, muscles and connective tissue.

As well as treating injuries when they occur, some sports physicians will work with athletes to prevent injuries and enhance performance.

Course entry requirements

Before specialising in sport realted illness or injury, entrants must study for a medical degree.

For the five-year medical degree, the majority of medical schools require three A levels, with one in chemistry. Others will accept AS level in chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some require biology at A level.

For candidates without science subjects to offer at A level (or equivalent), it is possible to undertake an additional pre-medical year at some universities (see section training to be a doctor). The pre-medical year is a preliminary course in chemistry, physics and biology and lasts normally 30 weeks. Other equivalent qualifications can be accepted, such as a BTEC higher national diploma, GNVQs, and the International Baccalaureate.

For candidates without A levels there are small number of access courses which can lead on into a medical degree

What does the training involve?

The minimum qualification would depend on the position, but the full medical degree would have to be taken first before specialist training.

For example, an orthopaedic surgeon is required to complete a full 11 years of study culminating with the FRCS Orth, an orthopaedic physician would have completed the minimum five years of medical study plus an additional four to seven years of study for the qualifications MRCP or MRCGP.

However, since 'sports physician' is a fairly vague term without a strict definition, a sports physician could in fact be a GP with an interest in sports injuries.

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