Angie's LIST Guide to
Pediatric Sports Medicine

Pediatric sports medicine is the study of conditions of the musculoskeletal system of children and adolescents. A specialist helps with conditions that affect a child’s ability to remain active in sports and recreational activities.


Pediatric sports medicine specialists can help children prepare for athletics and prevent future injuries. (Photo by Stephanie Maulding)
Pediatric sports medicine specialists can help children prepare for athletics and prevent future injuries. (Photo by Stephanie Maulding)

Pediatric sports medicine specialists

If your children are active in sports in school or age group leagues, they are prone to injuries. Even injuries off the court or field can greatly affect their performance during the sports season. A specialist in pediatric sports medicine will ensure that their bodies are in peak shape and check for injuries or conditions that could affect their performance. The specialist's expertise focuses on any type of injury or medical problem associated with ligaments, muscles, bones, joints and tendons. Many schools will hire a pediatric sports specialist to evaluate and examine team members before, during and after the season.

This type of specialist will need four years of medical school at an accredited college or university and pediatric residency training before he or she can begin practicing medicine independently. Depending on the state and facility that specialists will be practicing in, a certain amount of practice experience may be required as well, along with a certification of qualification and up to two additional years of sports medicine fellowship training.

Specialists practice in a variety of places — some at schools and others on the field — but you can also follow up with them in routine appointments during the off-season at community hospitals, multispecialty group clinics, private practice clinics and university medical centers.

Seeing a sports medicine doctor

If your child does not see a sports medicine specialist routinely, you can schedule an appointment through a referral with your family doctor or pediatrician. This type of specialist can evaluate some common injuries such as heat stroke, stress fractures, sprains, strains, ligament injuries, dislocated joints, nerve damage and minor fractures.

Breathing issues can be treated at the scene, such as asthma induced by exercise or sports. In some cases, the athlete may have asthma, but a breathing issue also could be an acute or isolated event. The specialist will evaluate if the condition is an emergency, or if it can be treated with medication, such as a breathing treatment or bronchodilator.

In case of a sudden injury, a trained specialist can evaluate athletes immediately for concussions and other serious head injuries. Most specialists are first responders who can help to treat the athlete until emergency medical help arrives and she can be transported to a hospital or clinic.

Specialists treat emergency injuries and acute conditions, as well as underlying medical conditions. This type of specialist will consider an athlete's underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems and congenital defects. Accommodations may be worked into the athlete's practice and game play regimen so that there is no added strain or inconvenience to jeopardize health or well-being.

Pediatric sports medicine treatment

A sports medicine doctor who specializes in pediatric medicine has the training and expertise to look for injuries, even in cases where the child is not experiencing pain or discomfort. Many children and teens play through injuries and do not report issues they may be experiencing. Pediatric sport medicine doctors can provide expertise that is more immediately relevant than that of routine physical or family doctor exams. They are trained for accurately diagnosis of all medical issues related to children and teens that will affect their overall health.

A pediatric sports medicine specialist's evaluation will include exercises and routines that will help build muscle strength and provide pain relief. Specialists will suggest a range of motion techniques that will help target the problem areas and place an emphasis on improving an athlete's overall health. With proper medical guidance, athletes can stay in top-notch shape and be ready for the next game.

  • According to Boston Children's Hospital, 20 percent of children and teens who participate in sports each year are injured, with one in four of those injuries being serious. The most common sports injuries are strains and sprains that occur while playing sports.

  • More than 2.6 million children up to age 19 receive emergency medical treatment for injuries from sports and recreation each year, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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